Dive Log -- by Hunter

Yesterday I was getting ready to go snorkeling in the coral garden.
I was putting my flippers when I heard the radio,
"Pura Vida, Pura vida, this is Dragonfly"
(Dragonfly is a kid-boat we have been hanging out with)
"Yes, Dragonfly want to go One-Seven?"
One Seven is the channel we use to talk on the VHF radio to other boats, because we do not have a phone on our boat so we communicate with other sailors by calling on the radio. Channel 16 is a hailing channel but you are not allowed to talk on it other than to call another boat or if you have a real emergency problem.
My mom was the one talking on the radio and I couldn't hear what she said because I had jumped in the water to see if the tide was flooding. A flood tide is when the water form the outside ocean comes flooding into the pass. It makes the water very very clear so this is when we like to go snorkeling.
"Hey" my mom shouted down to me,
"Dragonfly wants to know if they can come snorkeling with us?"

We got all our gear in the dinghy and headed over to the coral garden. I like to dive outside on the reef that surronds the island but a lot of times other kids find it pretty scary. It sounds worse than it is. As long as you keep in close to the rest of the grownups and stay in the shallow cuts in the reef, it is really amazing.

The visibility is so good and you see so many kinds of fish and corals and we also see alot of really small blacktip reef sharks. These are not at all dangerous as long as you keep an eye on them. If we ever see anything bigger than I am, we keep in a group and just keep a close look out. We also never hunt for anyhting when i am in the water. If my daddy goes spearfishing he doesn't do that when their are little kids in the water but my brother is big enough to go with him sometimes.

The coral garden is inside the pass, so a little bit safer i guess, but there can be even more current here inside the pass than on the outside but people seem to think there wont be as big a sharks inside so maybe that is why they feel safer.

We parked the dinghy and put down the anchor and I got my gear on. Mask, snorkel, fins and weight belt. I ploped into the water and the first hting I saw was lots of colorful coral (the spacific types were, Acropora and Docillopora ) My mom was blowing some bubbles to get my attention and I dove down fifteen feet to where she was pointing at something under a rocky ledge. It was a juvenile Lion fish.
ID:long, slender, pectoral fin rays,that are less fethery than they are when they are full grown. Often they are dark when they are babies-like this one was. Usually they are solitary but sometimes they can be found in small groups of two to four animals. During the day you can ususally find them in small caves or under rocks and ledges (like this one was). They are really poisinos so you cant touch them. Thy have venom that can come out of the spines on their backs.
(we are not allowed to touch anything on the reef just to be safe and its best to look and not disturb things anyway)

We also saw a giant moray (that is actually the name) this guy can get up to seven feet long. The one we saw was only sticking his head out of his hole ( they live in rocks and coral clumps). His head was so big though he looked like a dragon. These guys can be mean sometimes and get really grumpy if you get to close to their holes but sometimes you find a nice one and my daddy or my big brother will kill a little fish with the Hawaiin sling and feed it to them!

Mom said we should go back to the dinghy becuase of the current. We had other kids with us and mom likes to make sure no one gets tired because you always have to make sure to have enough energy to swim back to the dinghy safely.  I didn't feel tired at all and I wanted to keep snorkeling with our new friends on Drangonfly but It was true the current was strong that day and even though the dinghy was not far by the time I got back to it, I was sure tired, after all and now I was freezing, too!
 I got in the boat and started the engine right away and mom said "Hunter wait!...We still have to pull up the anchor!"
I was so freezing I just wanted to get back to our boat and get cozy again!

Fishpen -- by Kai

"Knock, Knock, Knock!"
Someone rapped on the side of the hull.
I poked my head outside the hatch to see Gaston outside on his small fishing boat.
"Bonjour, Kai...You come fish pen!" he called.
I instantly responded, "sure...let me get my shoes, is it ok if my dad comes too?"
"Yes! It okay!"
Gaston says everything like he's shouting but he's really nice.
I raced below to get my shoes and ask my dad if he wanted to come and in a few minutes we were in Gaston's boat and racing towards the fish pens.

The fish pens are one of Gaston's many ways of catching fish.

We were still inside the lagoon and anchored the boat by tying it up to one of the many pieces of re-bar that were sticking up out of the sand in fairly shallow ( maybe five feet) water.
Strung up between the re-bar, underwater, are nets.
The nets form  a large "V" with two little bulges near the bottom part of the "V" making it look more like a heart than a "V" but I cant draw it, so you will have to imagine.

Gaston jumped in the water with a big metal basket that looks kind of like a cylandar.
He started scaring all the fish into one corner of the net by slapping the water and splashing and then he dipped the basket under water and  scooped up the fish. There was a shark in there too and he just grabbed it by the tail and chucked it outside the net.
If the sharks are too big to toss, then he will spear them with a long javeline and kill them.
Once he had the fish in the basket he would hand it up to my dad, who hauled it aboard and dumped it out on the bottom of the boat.
My dad is a pretty big guy but it took all his strength to lift the basket of fish out of the water and into the boat.
They did this over and over. There were thirty to fifty fish in each load!
Bumphead parrot fish, snapper, bigeyes, beams,long face Emporer, Blue Trevally, scabs, bonefish, acute jawed mullets, greasy groupers, roving coral groupers, bullet head parrot fish...I saw so many I lost track.

After a few more baskets, we went to shore to unload. Gaston got a snow shovel and started throwing fish out of the boat onto the concrete floor of the fish shack while we sorted them into piles. Parrot fish on one side, everything else on the other.
When that was all done, we got foot long needles and some long cords and started sewing fish together-four to a cord. Gaston told us this was called making fish "packets" and this is how they sell them to the supply boat in return for food and building materials.

It took all day but when it was finally finished and all the fish ready to go for market, we went back to Gaston's house and played a game of patonk (like bocce), while Valentine and my mother and sister make dinner.
Everything is cooked outside, in a fire or on a grill.
We always eat rice and at least two kinds of fish and coconut bread.
When the dinner is over, we help gather the water in buckets to do the dishes and then finally sit back to relax after the long day.
Sometimes we play music, or ukelele or just look at the stars and poke at the huge fire Gaston always builds.

This is a typical day, here in Anse Amyot.

Mi Vida es Pura Vida

Pura Vida in 2012
For those who care about these sort of details I will try and be a little more specific about what happened with our bowsprit. I was using our own on-board "slang" but technically, we do not have a "bowsprit". Pura Vida has a custom bow pulpit that is not part of her original design but added on after factory to make anchoring and other things easier and give you a nice spot to rig your spinnaker block. The "Dolphinstriker", I mentioned is not an accurate term either, as it does not go all the way to the waterline--I'm not even sure what to call the stainless steel rod that holds our pulpit in place."Bobstay", is a close second, although also not exactly what it is, either.

The morning after that nightmare of a blow, things were pretty bleak.
We were still having a hell of a time with the fetch but the wind finally began to die off.

A few hours later, the sky broke open and things calmed down and it turned into one of the most beautiful days we have seen here in Anse Amyot. One look at the horizon, though, and you could see this was just a lull and mother nature might not be quite finished with us yet.

We hadn't slept in days but were too wired to do that now, so while I hung our sopping wet stuff out to dry in the sun, Jon went and made us two stiff, Vodka Ceasars. Captain and first mate shambled forward to bask our weary bones in the warm sun and mull over what the hell we were going to do about this mess.

In the morning light and dead tired, things looked pretty bad.

We were both a little shell-shocked, I think, but as we talked it though, we started to see how we could sort it out and pretty soon we were getting the second wind we so badly needed. Our first issue was, getting those mooring lines off of the bowroller and back through the deck chalks. Our anchor was still deployed and the weight of the chain was putting strain on what was left of our sprit (still hanging on by a few twisted screws) and the spinnaker halyard that was now holding the whole sha-bang up. If we got another round of wind and fetch (it was still blowing from the West) we would lose all of it--this was task Numero Uno.

There were several other brand new catamarans in the anchorage with us during the storm, thankfully no one else had any problems at all. (Luck-of-the-draw had put us in the worst spot during the blow.) We heard on the radio that next day, that the big million dollar boat with all the fancy instruments, had clocked 56 knots during the storm (I guess we were too busy on deck fighting to stay off the reef to notice!). Everyone was happy to have their exotic vacations back on track again and they all smiled and waved cheerfully at us, as they wake boarded behind their super-dinghies, while their crews cooked them breakfast.

I looked at Jon's face and my heart crumpled.

He never whines or complains about anything and very rarely gets blue and is usually a reserve of good attitude, but that morning was a hard one for him.

After everything we had been through lately, we needed a little fun and just when it looked like things were going that way for us--we had another major issue to deal with.

I leaned overboard and noticed that the tide was flooding. It was crystal clear and with blue skies above, this was the perfect time to go for a dive. I suggested we all take an hour off of worrying, to get in the water, for the sake of crew morale, and that's exactly what we did. We followed some giant wrasse and a baby blacktip, two beautiful leopard morays, Jon shot a parrot fish for breakfast and everyone felt a lot better.

Afterwards, Jon dove down to the anchor, unshackled it from the chain and tied a buoy to it so we could retrieve it at a later date. We pulled up our chain, Jon re-routed all our lines and for the first time ever, we had our primary anchor siting on the bottom-unattached to us!

Its a very unpleasant feeling.
Your anchor is your last line of defense and our biggest security blanket.

In fact, in hindsight, it was this feeling that contributed to our pulpit taking the hit that it did. Talking over what we could have done differently, what factors contributed to what damages we incurred and what we learned,  we feel that several factors were in play that caused things to go from bad to worse:

We have never been on a lee shore in a blow before because we do everything in our power to make sure we don't end up there. Paying close attention to the weather, looking at the sky, anchoring in the best spot possible and not hesitating to move to safety if we even think something nasty might be coming. Better to be safe than sorry, no matter if its a pain in the ass.

This time, we just got caught. We had been here before in a blow and the weather was calling for the exact same kind of conditions as the first time. The wind had indeed clocked around to the North West during the last event but it did not linger there--it was only on its way to the Southern quarter where it hung out for a much longer time.

This "local" knowledge, led us to believe we would experience the same thing and so that's what we prepared for. We carefully added extra lines and snubbers (the forecast was for 25-30 knots) and did what we thought would be over-kill for what they were expecting. What ended up coming at us was both unexpected in velocity, (35-60 knots, for 48 hours) and highly unusual in its pattern.

When we bought Pura Vida, it was obvious there had been something of this sort before. The pulpit showed signs of being re-glued, our bowroller was slightly warped and the bob-stay or dolphin-striker had a slight bend in it. She is an older, blue-water girl, with plenty of serious cruising in her past,so there was nothing unusual about her having issues like this. In normal-rough circumstances, there was nothing to worry about and we have never had any problems at all. Under these forces, however, 6 foot waves on the bow and our anchor wrapped and 50+ winds, with all that stress--it was too much and the "weak" point was exactly where she went. Right down to the glue-lines in the teak pulpit  and the small bend in the stainless bob-stay (now a 90% angle!).

Here is what we might have done differently;
Once we realized we were going to be on a lee shore, we should have gotten rid of that anchor rather than deploy it.

As I said before, we had to re-route our lines as they were chaffing faster than we could manage--this is where I believe the 65 knot claim that one of the boats in this anchorage said they saw. We have never before experienced that much wind, anywhere, never mind on a mooring, on a lee shore, twenty feet from a reef! It was totally nuts.

Normally, if you are on a mooring, it adds security to drop your ground tackle- everyone else here, in the anchorage also dropped their hooks and some chain. In our case, though, we should have taken the anchor off the chain and buoyed it, at the first sign of trouble. Then we could have rerouted our lines through the roller and we would have been just fine.

Its a hard call to make, when you are scared. Us cruisers do love our anchors and we really really trust them, so to let that go when things were going from bad to worse, was just not something that came naturally. Live and learn.

Every situation is different though, if we didn't have the previous damage, it might have been able to handle the load-but who knows. It would take a very unique situation for us ever to consider dropping our anchor, again...but there you go.

That night, we went to bed in a creepy-calm, no-wind, glass-flat, anchorage.
We fell instantly asleep.
Until 2 am.

I woke up and heard a low, moaning sound.
I barely had time to figure out what it was, before the squall hit us full on.
"Holy..." was all I managed to get out before Pura Vida was laying almost on her side, from the first blast of that wind.
Jon was on deck in a heartbeat.

Thank god he had fallen asleep in his t-shirt and trunks, because the force of the rain would have stripped his skin off! He ran forward to make sure we weren't going to tear off the bow roller and one of our extra security lines had come away from its chaffe guard and was literally sawing itself off before his eyes.
While Jon battled the elements to fix that, I ran on deck to watch our wind meter zoom past 46-47-53...
I ran back down stairs and dug out our shoes, the PFD's, and our dry bag (for our passports and computers). I kissed the kids, who were wimpering in their bunks, told them their shoes and life jackets were nearby and that if I said the word, they must calmly get them on and be ready to do exactly what we said.

They were very cool. "Are we going on the reef?"

"I hope not, babies" I said.

I left them in their bunks and went back into the salon, curled up in a fetal position on the settee and shook like a chihuahua.

The wind howled and howled and howled, I could see Jon's flashlight on deck flashing back and forth across the hatches like lightening. I knew I couldn't help out there, right now--it was too crazy--so I just lay there, in the dark, curled in a ball, thinking "Fuck...this!" and praying.

Twenty minutes later it was over.
Jon came back inside and gave me a huge hug.
"let's go back to bed" he said.

I couldn't sleep for the rest of the night. I watched the lightening though the hatch (the real stuff), my ears were peeled for another horrible moan like the one that had foretold the previous squall...but it never came.

The next morning was so beautiful it was almost comical.
It was like nature was going "What? Me? Do something wicked? Never!"
Not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind.

The kids and I were due ashore at 10AM to help Gaston and Valentine prepare for the big party the fancy boats had ordered for that night. We are "staff" here now and there was plenty to do before the big event.
There was a pig to kill and fish to filet and coconuts to be gathered and husked and shredded and turned into coconut milk for the bread and cakes needing baked, flowers to gather and decorations to be made...
Gaston also finished the roof on the new building--in case it rained, the party would still go on.

Jon and a kind skipper of a lovely little boat (also American, also headed for Hawaii) carefully took off our bowpulpit and brought it ashore to begin the process of salvaging.

We had a great, wonderful, day-I will never forget it.

I watched Hunter running through the coconut palms, gathering flowers from Valentine's fallen trees (she lost many, many of her favorite flower trees in the blow), and Kai man-handling the peeling of the coconuts for meat (not an easy task!) and Jon, shirtless and tanned and working away, piecing out how he would salvage our bowsprit out here in the middle of nowhere with no materials but what we have on hand or what could be found washed up on the beach.

No one complained, no one whined, everyone worked hard, side by side with our wonderful our hosts, speaking in Tahitian and French all day. We sang, as we worked and drank a little wine in the kitchen, joked and talked about Jesus (of course!). When Hunter and Kai had finsihed all their work for the day, they zoomed home and got "dressed up" and "brush that hair and use shampoo!". (Valentine had commanded we go home and scrub up--our boss doesn't want us looking natty for the guests!)

Our kids played politely with all the other cruiser children from the fancy boats and in return, Valentine and Gaston loved on us, and fed us (at the "staff" table in another room) and when they (the fancy boats) invited us (the kitchen help) out for a toast of champagne in honor of one of their birthdays...
I was so, so proud of our little family, and grateful that THIS is OUR experience of this place.

Even though, I really, truly, hope that we are not tested again in the next little while, (or too sorely on our way to Hawaii), every bit adds to knowing that we can do more than we ever thought we were capable of...
which is pretty cool, as life experiences go.

Valentine and Gaston did not whine when they lost some of their favorite trees or that a chicken was killed by a flying debris or that they had to finish a roof and get the fish ready for the market boat AND cook for twelve quite particular guests.

They did it cheerfully and smiled and made it lovely for everyone.

This morning we had breakfast ashore.
The other American boat cooked a huge pancake breakfast for Gaston and Valentine and they invited us.
They brought out their saved special chorizo sausages from Mexico (you should have seen Kai's face) and we ate leftovers from the party, fancy mimosa cake and grilled pork and coconut bread...
We listened to music and drank cafe au lait out of bowls.
Jon's wood glue set well and the bowsprit looked save-able.
Fixing the bobstay is still an issue, but we have our fingers crossed.
All things considered...
Life certainly feels "Pura Vida" again. :)

Storm -- by Hunter

'Rain, rain, rain",
I said one gusty morning(it had been raining and blowing twenty five knots in the anchorage for some days now)

"Mom" i said (over the blistering wind)"when will it stop?"

"well Hony" (she said in her motherry tone)
"we are just getting the gribs now".

"Ah, man, its gonna blow 30 for another coulple days"

"oh, no that suks, I was hoping we could go for a snorkle later if it calms down."

"sorry hony", said dad."not for anouther couple of days...but hopefully by next week".

"You said it would have calmed down by now" I said,
(I could barely hear myself over the houwling wind and furiousley pounding rain)

I woke up to the sound of running footsteps on deck,
"Jon, Jon" I heard my mother scream
( even though she was screaming I could tell she was tired)
My mom and dad had been awake all night.
"Babe, get up here!"
I was worried.

"Mom, what's going on?"
I was scared ( usually she was calm)
"Hony, just stay downstairs.."
-But I was cut off by dad coming down the hallway, his hair was stiking straight up
"wha what's going on?'

"Jon, the bowsprit...its broken compleately off just hanign by the railes"
she said meakly.

"Don;t worry hony, its going to be alright."

Then I heard him get on the bow,

"Mom can I please go look, I'm really scared"

"Okay Hony".

I ran like I never ran before, I got upstairs in a heartbeat.
"Oh good, its not as bad as mom said"

"Look closer" dad said, scraching his chin.
I looked so close my nose was almost touching the bow.
The bowsprit was underneath the boat, just barely hanging on by the halyard they had just put on it to keep it form being in the water!

A little while later, we where in the main salon, i was making coffee for my parents when I said aloud,
"I have fan mail for all of you."
I just remembered I had riten letters to my brother, mother and my daddy.

They looked at me with tired eyes.
"will it make a mess?"

"No. its just some letters and paintings"
5 minutes later everyone was laughing and it was slightly better again.

Damaged but still floating.

Well, the weather gribs were not exactly spot on (once again) and the wind clocked around one more time, badly fouling us in our anchor chain and carefully placed security lines and then came around much harder from the Northwest again!

Lows are supposed to move clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere but this thing moves counterclockwise or just back and forth from East to North West and never to the South-which is the normal pattern everyone expects when preparing for bad weather here. In Anse Amyot a North West/West wind, puts us on a dangerous lee shore, which is exactly where we are barely holding on right now.

The winds have not let up since this system moved in (maybe we are in the trough of the low, but this is just a guess), so moving has been out of the question, besides, there's nowhere to run to, even if we could.

Pura Vida did her best to hang on over the past two days and had we not run the lines through our bow roller, we would have ended up on the reef right behind us. The fetch built seriously, last night and we were taking six foot waves directly on the nose.

Sometime around 4 am,  in the bucking swell, with our wrapped chain straining us taught on our lines, the bowsprit snapped off. Our dolphin striker looks like a corkscrew, we have rigged our spinnaker halyard though our spinnaker chalk on our forward bowroller, to hold our splintered sprit on the boat.

Jon and I are taking things one step at a time this morning, starting with coffee and as much good humor as we can muster. We've been awake for 48 hours now, so we're gonna try and take it slow...

We consider ourselves lucky, because on a nearby atoll, six houses were obliterated, completely washed away, under three meter waves, last night.

There was no accurate weather warning predicting this unusual weather pattern and it has caught everyone here by surprise.

I'm afraid that's all for now, folks.
Pura Vida, standing by.


"Living the dream" of cruising the South Pacific becomes a whole other kind of reality if an unexpected low comes out of nowhere and lands right on top of you. Paradise quickly goes from idyllic fantasy to full-blown nightmare-- which is exactly what happened in our neck of the woods, last night.

I'm writing this out on paper this morning, because our computer battery is on its last legs (hey Mac, what's the deal with needing to have spare batteries PROFESSIONALLY INSTALLED by a MAC store, and why didn't you tell us that WHEN we bought the spare battery????) and we won't be able to recharge today (the forty knot winds have our solar panels stashed away and the sideways rain means no Honda generator on deck), the boat is hobby-horsing and bucking on the fetch that's come spitting through the pass at us...but we are lucky.

Two boats were lost last night in the Atoll nearest us--Apataki.

Close enough to hear them on the VHF but powerless to help, we were unable to do anything but listen...
A scared and desperate, women's voice;
her boat name and then...
"May-Day, May-day, Apataki!!!"
Her distress cry was met with dead silence.

Jon and I stood, dripping wet and shivering in our underwear.
The wind was now howling like a burning witch,
and Pura Vida pitched and surged on the building fetch.
Our only light, was the campy, orange-glow cast off from the VHF.
Supernatural, old-school horror movie shadows flickered across Jon's face.

But this wasn't make believe.

"MAY-DAY" is the last thing ever called.
It means you are losing your boat.

The silence that met her plea only meant that other captains and crews in the vicinity of the struggling boat were busy on their foredecks fighting to save their own boats from destruction...
Mooring bridles snapping like rubber bands, anchor chains fouling on coral heads, as boats bucked and shook off their shock absorbers in the roiling six foot fetch.
Apataki was not a good place to be tonight.

The vessel in distress was on her own.

When a Low forms right over you, the weather predictions don't necessarily have to play by the rules.
Whatever is happening over our little corner of the Tuamotos, right now, seems to have a mind of its own.

We expected some increased wind and heavy rains, wind shifts are normal in a front...
the thing with fronts is, they pass fairly quickly. This thing came in with the force of a front but the decided to stay on for awhile, making it behave more like a low.

Sailors caught unawares are always subject to nasty surprises but when it happens in an atoll, where there is no where to run for shelter, the fetch can build up very quickly and you are surrounded by unforgiving coral "bommies" waiting to snafu your best laid ground tackle...
things can turn deadly....


We had all gone ashore about 8:30 yesterday morning. It was raining lightly and the winds were indicating what was predicted on the grib files we downloaded before breakfast. Hunter raked leaves for Valentine and gathered coconut husks from the pig pens to be burned in the daily bonfires to clear trash and debris. Kai gamely chased a half-wild and starving mother pig and her piglets into an empty pen--where she could be fed cared for, while her children were eaten by visiting cruisers. The pig was not at all happy about this plan (understandably) and she and her piglets scattered in all directions. In the end, they were no match for the wild, long-haired, eleven-year-old-boy, carrying a big stick and thrilled beyond measure at being ordered to chase something other than his little sister through a jungle.

Jon lathed piles of wood into planks for a roof, while I split coconuts with an axe. Gaston then asked Kai (to his everlasting joy) to hunt up a rooster (they roam wild on the atoll) and shoot it with a pellet gun so it could be fed (with my freshly split coconuts) to the starving mother pig. Her babies need to be fattened on tasty milk for a fete- I secretly hope its not for my up-coming birthday or I would feel terribly about all this.

The first sign of the weather gods deciding to play a little trick was a sudden and dramatic wind shift to the North followed by an end-of-days black sky that would have sent me running for Valentine's chapel if only I was a true believer. As the sky opened up into a torrential downpour, Valentine laid out a yummy lunch for her laborers; chicken stew and raw fish salad, coconut rolls and bean and tuna salad. Kai had to be torn away from his task (tearing out a termite infested floor by attacking it with a sledge hammer), and everyone sat down to devour another one of Valentine's incredible meals.

As if on cue, as soon as lunch was finished the wind picked up to 30 knots and everyone hustled back to the boat.

In the calm before the storm, Jon had moved Pura Vida to one of Gaston's moorings. Most sailors prefer their own ground tackle to trusting someone else's but when you are surrounded by bommies and the wind is shifting it's a nice option. Plus, it protects the living reef from excess damages caused to coral by dragging chains and thunking big anchors constantly smashing the place to bits.

Jon dove our mooring and deemed it worthy and we shored up with extra lines directly shackled to the massive chain Gaston had wrapped around the huge coral head beneath us. Our concern wasn't his stuff breaking, it was the security of our lines connecting us to it.
That, and the looming coral head only six feet from our stern.
Jon dove that sucker too, while I stood on the swim ladder and judged how much room we had.

A sudden, violent wind shift swung us straight at it and I was grateful for the mere six feet we had between our rudder and it because when Jon stood on the highest part of the Bommie, the top of his head peeked out of the water. There was no way we could have cleared our skeg and rudder if not for that six feet of distance.

This was disconcerting, though. If any of our lines broke and we surged backwards, we would hit the bommie, snap off our rudder and be on the reef before you could say, "Jack Rabbit" or some other (much more likely) expression.
Jon set about hauling out our old anchor rode (rope) from the chain locker and diving the mooring again and securing that with another shackle.

We weren't going anywhere.

Unless... the wind clocked to the West and the fetch got so bad we chaffed though our own lines...

We've been in a few blows since we started this madness, three years ago
and have learned to take storm prep seriously.

Jon swims around under the boat, securing extra lines to the mooring and rigging a bridle on our dinghy painter line, so she'll trail safely behind the big boat. We lost our plug somewhere along the way and re-jiggered it with one that doesn't come out, so hauling her up on the davitts with all this rain is out of the question.

Jon does his usual routine, checking on all our neighbors moorings' as well and helping beef up their security measures.

We haven't refilled our tanks since our last dive, so he swims around with Hunter's little yellow 40 tucked under one arm, looking like good ol' Captain American quarterback-boy.

Kai trails behind him in the dinghy and Hunter and I make sure everything is stowed away on deck.

Two hours later, Jon is still in the water, the wind has picked up to 30 knots, the rain is coming down like glass shards. I am relieved to see Jon is finally swimming towards our ladder.

"Want some coffee?" I ask as he reaches the boat.
"I want my speargun..." he says from the water.
'There's tuna down there..."

30 knots and a gale be damned,
Jon and Kai spend the next two hours, in the no-visibility,
howling winds, pelting rain...
hunting for tuna.

Kai stays in the dinghy and trails behind Jon like a faithful puppy,
in the event that Jon hits a big tuna he will pull them (Jon and the fish) out of the water before the sharks get to them.

This is only a mild concern because its getting dark.

I shake my head and mutter under my breath and wonder if I should turn off the curry I'm making and make sushi rice, instead.

When it actually IS dark and I go out on deck to see what the heck is happening (yes, that nasty LOW is still totally raging) I also see that our son, following his father around in circles, is now the color of an ice popsicle. I wait for Jon to surface and give my loudest trucker-whistle when he pops his head up.
'But there's a big one..." he whines.

I cut him off with the universal "Get-your-ass-back-here" hand signal. If you married a spear-fisherman, sailor, or any other husband bent on leisure activities that occasionally make you act demented...
you will know exactly what this looks like.

Jon and Kai get back to the boat in a flash.

Things were nasty but deal-able for the first few hours but as soon as the kids went to bed, it got downright ugly. We realized this was going to be more than expected and started methodically rechecking everything we had done.

That's when the wind, which was now upwards of 40 knots, suddenly shifted again from N to NW and then to W...
This was bad news.

We had been rolling quite a bit on the wrap around swell coming into the anchorage from the North but this last shift put us on the lee shore.
Anse Amyot is protected on all sides-except this one little hole in the reef where it opens to the West.

Pura Vida started to buck like crazy on her mooring lines as the fetch increased by the minute. What had been short chop in the small anchorage now was building to something more serious...

Our great bud, Terry Kennedy, form SV Manta, had given us some good advice back in Baja when we were facing the threat of hurricane Paul (our first and only so far) roaring towards the sleepy penninsula: "Remember to check for that chaffe! Every twenty minutes! It happens faster than you can imagine!"
He would call out again and again, over the VHF as all the cruisers hunkered down in their boats to wait out the storm.

The post script on that one is that we were spared the full force of the tempest, so it amounted to nothing more than a lot of rain, some wind and a good practice run, for us.

We heeded Terry's good advice as we always do and thank goodness we did.

Our chaffe guard is some mega thick, tough as nails, length of PVC toilet hose that Jon can barely tear through with his hacksaw. No matter what we have been in before, it's always held up well.

We had checked it before the latest wind shift and everything looked honky-dory...
fifteen minutes after the increased fetch-it looked like it had been through a giant cheese grater.
Unchecked, we would have sawed though our holding lines in twenty minutes.

We had run all our lines through the chalks on our bow, because our anchor was up, and had not deployed our anchor as a secondary precaution because of how shallow we were and the forecast had not given us inclination to think we would be facing this kind of fetch.

Jon had to come up with a new plan... and fast.
I was dripping and shaking, physically willing myself to stop shivering by taking deep unjaya yoga-breaths through my nose, so I could be calm and help execute whatever Jon needed us to do.

Without talking about it, both of us were thinking about that bommie six feet behind us, and the reef not twenty feet beyond that.

While I mentally ran though my emergency "worst case" checklist for the kids; lifejackets, headlamps, and shoes-in case we ended up to that reef, Jon mentally ran though what we needed to do to make sure that wasn't gonna happen.

As Jon puzzled out a plan to get our anchor down and out of the way, re-rig our snubber and then get all our lines off our port and starboard chalks and running though our bow roller, we heard another call  over the radio.
"we are on the beach!"
If you are not a sailor, you may not know that this is not a good thing, around here.
It was a French sounding voice, but not the same as we had heard earlier. Its a weird thing, how French boats never seem to answer on channel 16, so we weren't surprised to hear an American voice respond: "Is everyone safe?"

"Oui...but our boat is lost."

We recognized the American boat-we haven't met them in person but we have had many radio conversations with them over the past two weeks. All of us longed for some English speaking company but even though we were pretty near-by (as things go out here) neither of us was willing to give up their atoll to go visit the other. They are sailor/kite boarders and had chosen to stay in Apataki for the good beach take-offs and we are sailor/scuba, so wanted to stay here, with our beloved reef.

"Glad to hear that at least you are all safe," said the Americans. "We keep snapping our snubbers and are almost on the beach ourselves. Are you the boat that fired the flare?"

"not us..." came the reply.

"...that is another boat-already on the reef".

Whatever we were feeling, things in Apataki were much, much worse.

Jon and I sat in stunned silence, helplessly looking at each other.
He grabbed the radio mic but I put his hand down.

"It won't help them to talk right now" I whispered. "We'll call in the morning to check on them..."

Jon's face was heartbreaking.

He would have done anything to be able to help but we were twenty miles away...
and had our own issues to deal with.

Jon moved forward, in the pitching darkness to the foredeck.

I wrapped my Buddha beads around my wrist (sorry, Valentine) and forced myself to stay calm.

The danger (besides us sawing through our lines) was Jon getting through what he had to pull off on the foredeck and not lose any fingers or toes or suffer any other of the possible horrible injuries that could happen when trying to re-rig all our lines under the kind of force they were now under.

I flicked on the deck lights, so I could watch Jon and try to read his hand signals through the blinding rain and shrieking wind. I was also aware that everyone in the anchorage would now be alerted to our troubles-and so watching out in case things got out of control.

It was still blowing forty, as Jon balanced on the bowsprit, with a flashlight in one hand, releasing our anchor, retying our snubber, and giving me hand signals to drive forward when he was ready, so the pressure on the lines could be released enough to re-route them.

It was a harrowing thirty minutes and not without a few hitches but he pulled it off.
Jon was an absolute hero, in his Herculean efforts and calm, clear thinking.

Once we were satisfied that Pura Vida could hang on, with the lines now running smoothly over the bow roller and her chaffe guards replaced, we crawled into the bunk with only two hours to go until daylight, the wind still raging like a maniac outside.
We thought about our poor fellow sailors, standing on an unprotected beach, on this terrible night, in the middle of nowhere, their beloved boats on the reef...

and the American boat who was still out there, fighting for their lives.

Just after sunrise, they called us on the VHF.

The low was still heavy and we were all dealing with it but they had made it through the night.
Two hundred feet of chain out and only thirty feet between them and the reef.
They had six foot waves breaking over the bowsprit and according to the updated weather gribs we were now relaying to them, we were all in for at least another 24 hours of the really bad stuff.

"Well.." said their bone weary, So-Cal-sounding skipper, "I better make some coffee and get ready for it".

"Good luck, you guys..." we said,
thinking of ourselves, as well as everyone else out here,

"...Pura Vida, back to Channel 16"

Work and Glory

The wind calmed down and we had a two day respite in the (now constant) rain.
At least there are no more water issues, for the moment!

It was a quiet weekend in the anchorage, with only Pura Vida and two other boats, so we invited Gaston and Valentine to our boat for dinner, to give them a night off.

Despite their unfailing charm and graciousness, we could tell they've been pretty exhausted, lately.

When we were here a few months ago, they had seasonal staff living here to help them with the endless work of hunting and gathering,  feeding the animals, construction, mooring upkeep, cooking for the 250+  boats that come in every year, trading pearls, and running their other business of selling fish to the supply boats that pass through the Tuamotos.

We don't really know what happened (and didn't care to ask) but apparently there were some falling out or family issues but whatever the case was, when we came back to Anse Amyot this trip, we were surprised to find Valentine and Gaston managing the whole place with only old uncle Philipe and the occasional help of a young man and his pregnant wife who planned to leave in a few weeks, anyway.

I was thinking about the situation of our hosts, as I rummaged out a few precious jars of home-canned ground beef. I was making lasagna, as a treat but I was also sweating our dwindling stores (the kids always seem to eat twice as much as I expect), and realized that if we were going to make it through our time here AND then make the crossing to Hawaii with a safe excess (a sound precaution when crossing oceans)...I better get creative.

But not that night.
Having Gaston and Valentine aboard was a treat for us all and we pulled out all the stops to make it a party. After a massive lasagna, many laughs and a few bottles of wine, Gaston and Valentine shared their troubles of being short staffed and their imminent anxiety about the charter fleet who would be arriving in a few days and expecting to be feted in grand style...

I shared my worries about our dwindling stores and as we all watched in awe as Kai polished off the lasagna with his fourth helping...

We struck a deal- our services as hired hands, in exchange for fresh food.

This arrangement works out great for everyone as they have excess stores of flour and coconuts and fresh eggs from their chickens. Jon will help Gaston fish and hunt, in trade for lobster and poisson du jour and I help Valentine cook and bake for the charter boats and guests of the small pension her sister runs here, Kai and Hunter will feed the pigs and the chickens and rake the property, gather breadfruit and pick fresh flowers to decorate the dining room. Kai also helps Gaston, with whatever project he is working on-gathering coconuts and cracking them for Copra to be sold, repairing the fish traps or any one of the hundred things he has going in a day.

I re-arrange our home schooling plan to include, working for other people (the very real NEED to work for food is quite inspiring, as it turns out) animal husbandry, and speaking French all day.

Only Valentine speaks good English, and most of the visiting boats are French, Brazilian or Swiss.
So the kids are getting a work out in both basic French and sign language!

In return, Valentine feeds us, whatever she has going- coconut beignets for breakfast, huge chicken curries at lunch, fresh fish for dinner and I don't have to dig into our precious stores -until we leave.

There's more to the exchange than that, of course, as its all done in friendship and we all learn heaps about each other in the process of helping out.

Valentine is VERY religious, so us being part of the "family" means going to church with them every Sunday. They built a small chapel on the property and Valentine acts as pastor. I enjoy it-except for the fire and brimstone bits and I REALLY have to bite my tongue if the issue of homosexuality comes up- but we think letting our kids experience other cultures sometimes includes beliefs we don't agree with.

Our policy on this is to maintain your own convictions (privately), look for the "good" in the situation, rely on the skillful employment of good manners to avoid tricky conversations and don't argue any issues unless you are invited to--or you're on home turf... then, by all means, go to town defending what you believe in.

Cultural opinions, aside, Hunter positively LOVES church.
She's into it with downright fervor, swooning and feeling the "Spirit" and getting to dress up on Sunday morning and sing impossible to decipher hymns in Polynesian, while Valentine plays her ukulele.

It's a little like pulling teeth for poor old Jon, though he's been a good sport (especially since I sneakily told Valentine that he played Jesus in a movie but had not "accepted Christ as his personal savior", so now, of course, it is her heart's desire to "save" Jon).

She makes him read long passages from the Bible out loud and then prays with him and asks him every day if Jesus has come to him yet. Jon is the least 'Church-y' person in the world but he's got plenty of love and compassion and having played BOTH Jesus AND Joseph Smith in his career, he can get right in there, if he needs to. We all enjoy watching Jon do his best to give it a go for Valentine's sake- because it makes her so happy.

It's actually been a really interesting thing for all of us.
Many late night discussions 'round the galley table about faith, the human inclination towards religion, cosmology, myth and archetypes...

Last night, Kai and I lay on deck looking up at the stars.

From our anchorage on this atoll, you can literally see a "dome" of stars. It is almost a 360 horizon. Only two, minuscule, slivers of practically sea-level island break up the vast ocean around us-yet we are anchored behind the reef and so if its not blowing like the dickens, it can become a perfectly calm, shamanic dream of eternity.

Last night was one of those nights.

I remembered a poem, that I've told Kai before and he liked...

(but I can never recall who wrote it)

In this house of starry dome,
with its gem-like plains and seas,
I shall never feel at home,
never really be at ease,
so from room to room I stray,
and never yet, my host espied,
and I know not, to this day,
whether guest or captive, I...

"it's kind of scary" said Kai.

I wasn't sure if he meant the poem or the vastness around us.

'I think..." I said, trying to find a way to articulate,
what I couldn't express, when the kids asked me earlier, what I "believed"...

"... God or whatever you want to call it,
is sort of like this sky of stars.
Sometimes, you see only little pieces of it,
and other times, it's like those night passages,
when its cloudy and there's no moon and everything is wicked dark
and sometimes, not even because you did anything different,
the whole thing becomes crystal clear and you find it everywhere you look.
I think, its always there, though--regardless of what we see."

There was a loud splash in the water next to the boat and Kai bounced up and leaned over the rails to check if it was a shark.

"But you did do something different..." he said after a minute.
"you sailed all the way, to the Tuamotos..."

He turned around and cocked an eyebrow at me, in that smug "I got this so covered" eleven-year-old, way.

"and that's what you're seeing, tonight."

Pilgrims and Progresses

The reinforced trade winds settled to something slightly less harrowing (25 knots is a "calm" day here) and we jumped at the chance to get underwater and make some bubbles...

Hunter opted to stay ashore with Valentine and all the new piglets and puppies, which gave Jon, Kai and myself the opportunity to do a bit more "adventurous" diving, on our own.

We spent a few days having a ball underwater and finding our way back to the groove; getting our gear re-tuned and weights just right- although, my crusty, ancient regulator still honks like a Canadian goose when I get below seventy feet.
When I'm not scaring everything within 500 yards away, I seem to be the favorite curiosity of the braver fish who swim right up to my mask to see what all the hooting and tooting is about.

The days fall into busy routines.
Hunter is reading 'Little Women" lately,
and I have to laugh about the similarities in our Quaker-esque lifestyles.
No idle hands aboard this ship!

There is always much to do before play.

Up at dawn, hand-grind the coffee, while watching the sun rise,
our daily bread, baked from scratch EVERY day, preparing the dough and letting it rise,
while the kids make the beds and sweep the floors.

Breakfast on the weekdays is positively Spartan-we have no fruit or boxed cereals or yogurt (if we don't make it from scratch),
we don't dare use "fancy" milk (the kind in the box) until the weekend...
so its a thin pancake, oatmeal or a slice of day old bread and homemade jam before school work.

The kids write in their dive journals, work on grammar and use my copy of Strunk and White "Elements of Style"--best way ever to make good writing, make sense!

They plow through Rosetta stone, read Buddhist philosophy, Kai and I discuss Mircea Eliade's ideas on primitive archetypes...

Jon is always up early and onto some boat project or on shore helping Gaston put a roof on the fish-cleaning hut he is building.
Later, he and Kai will venture out to find something to catch and kill so we can eat it and not use up our canned food until we really need it.

Hunter and I prepare whatever will be our main meal for the day and reorganize our stores and clean the boat and do (gasp!) whatever mending needs to be done to our now, thread-bare-three-years-into-cruising, clothes.

We are in deep conservation mode, as we have no way to restock or reprovision before our crossing to Hawaii.

That means all our "stores" have to last us at least eight or ten more weeks.

Fresh water, gasoline for the generator and compressor, canned goods, "treats" like candy, boxed milk,crackers,chips,wine, and especially coffee and a few precious bottles of rum -are hoarded like gold.

The humble, salty crew of Pura Vida was starting to fret over the lack of rain, lately --hardly a drop since we left Tahiti. With no working water maker, we must enforce strict conservation--just under 3 gallons a day, for four people. Our precious, "sweet water" is only for drinking and rinsing glasses. No showering after swimming (only vigorous towel drying before the salt dries on your body), washing all dishes only in salt water, the intrepid usage of squirt bottles for all teeth brushing and face washing and do not even think about laundry until it rains--wear your bathing suit or nothing!

Valentine and Gaston kindly offered us water from their cistern but as there has been no rain for them either, we did not feel comfortable taking more than ten gallons.

Fortunately, two, big, fancy boats stopped in Anse Amyot on their way to Tahiti.
They both had eager divers aboard but having no compressors, they were reluctant to use their tanks for pleasure dives. Most everybody out here saves their scuba tanks, in the (very likely) event, that they will need to use them to untangle their anchors from the coral heads (or "Bommies" as they're called in this part of the world). We jumped at the chance to help out and offered to pump air in return for fresh water.

It also gave us an opportunity to dive with some new people, which is always fun, and it was an excellent trade off for everyone.

Just as the last jug of water was shipped aboard and our tanks topped to overflowing-it started to pour rain. Two days of heavy squalls ensued and more water than we could imagine streamed across our decks.

Nothing to do but haul off those comforters and get some major laundry done!
Big stuff goes into the baby bath (not just for babies on a boat!), with bio-degradable detergent (for a healthy, happy reef), and then gets spread out on a freshly swabbed deck (thank you kids!) and vigorously scrubbed with a firm, bristle boat-brush, rinsed, and hung in the wind of a passing squall till almost dry, (as close as your gonna get on a boat).

Freshly washed bedding...compliments of mother nature.

Doing what I used to consider a medium-sized load of wash, takes about four hours and in this case, three weeks of waiting for rain!

Much Puritanical, wenching-away, days spent standing on deck in the deluge, bent over buckets, while the kids swabbed our salty decks back to a sparkling clean and Jon dug out the sail needles and repaired all our torn and worn canvass by hand stitching it.

Gaston and Valentine invited us, one night, to one of their big fancy dinners that they do for visiting cruising boats (she charges a fee per head, in exchange for a fantastic spread of lobster and fish and freshly baked bread and cakes and they even kill one of their pigs for the feast). I politely declined as we can't afford it these days and we are going to be here so long, I don't want to over step our welcome but she said they were delighted to have us, anyway, and Jon and Kai helped Gaston with fishing and repairs while Hunter and I happily pitched in, helping to cook and serve the other cruisers and do the dishes...

We had a wonderful night and were happy to be guests and somewhat useful at the same time.

Valentine gladly accepted our return offer to have the two of them over for a "night off" on our boat,
so we can cook for them and attempt to repay some of the kindness they have shown to us.

Its fun to look at all the big, beautiful, luxury boats that anchor near us.
Nice, to meet the interesting people aboard and marvel at their daily washed clothes and non-sticky hair...
but I wouldn't trade our experiences for all the push button winches or 100-gallon-an-hour water makers in the world.

I like that we have to figure it out for ourselves,
that we have to plan ahead and keep our fingers crossed.
The struggles sweeten the adventure and strengthen our spirits
and make the whole thing more satisfying in the end.

As part of home-schooling, I try to read the same books as the kids, so we can discuss them.

Hunter's "Little Women", romped through a world, so pious, decorous and fortified with sermons on good deeds and godliness that I expected a wild old pagan like me would find it a yawning overdose of outdated Sunday school saintliness. I mean, I struggle not to use the "F-bomb" in every sentence I utter...
but surprisingly, I didn't feel that way at all.

I loved it, cried like a baby, and when I turned out my light at night,
and everything got as dark and quiet as it does when you float in an atoll in the middle of the ocean...
I lay my head on my pillow,
and felt certain that lives are happiest,
when they are kept simple and connected to heart and tasks at hand.

Maybe, its because washing in buckets and baking bread,
IS actually fun and rewarding...

Or maybe, it's that fish don't judge you by your noisy, old regulator,
and Gaston and Valentine could care less if your hair is sticky...

But whatever it is,
that canny ol' bird, Louisa May had it right.

Wholesome is awesome.

It costs less, begets more,
is available to everyone,
covers your cost living,
gives you less of a hangover,
and leaves the world a better place...

which is, way, way, cool, by this pilgrim.

Blue Hole -- by Kai


I watched as the anchor descended into the crystal clear depths.
Throwing my tank on as quickly as possible, I jumped in.

The water was amazing and warm and clear and there must have been over one hundred feet of visibility.
Schools of small, colored fish came to greet me as I kicked down the anchor line.

My parents and I swam along the bottom with our other dive companions.
Two people from another boat joined us that day, we were looking for a spot known as the 'Blue Hole".

Gaston, our friend that lives on this atoll, had described it as a bottomless cave, about seventy feet down.
No one had the exact GPS co-ordinates for the spot, so Gaston had gone out in his fishing boat earlier to drop a float and mark where it was.

We had anchored our dinghies near the float but now we had to swim around and look for the actual "cave".

We got to the edge of the drop-off and we all stopped and stared into the darkness below us.
The reef slope stretched all the way to the abyssal plain.

We began our descent, jumping off the edge and free falling (it's diving but it feels like falling sometimes),
down, down, down,
until the light started to fade.

We landed on a ledge we had been aiming for and checking my dive computer I saw that we were at one hundred and ten feet.

Below us was only darkness.

Everyone looked around, wondering where the cave was but of course, no one can talk underwater so we all made hand signals and shrugged our shoulders and just hung out enjoying how weird and spooky it all was.

Looking into the darkness below me, It felt like if I let go of the slope, I would fall from reality itself.

I saw something shimmer in the distance and when I looked closer, I saw it was another another slope in front of us-
the other side of this canyon.

It dawned on me, then, that the "Blue Hole", wasn't a cave in the reef, it was a reef itself, formed in a giant circle...and the bottom just dropped away somewhere into oblivion.

We made a really slow ascent.

On the way up, I kept finding new creatures in the coral around me. The coolest was a bright yellow Nudibranch, with bright blue spots that were outlined in hot pink and it had big pink and orange tentacles.

The water got warmer and warmer as we made our way into the brighter, shallower water.

When we got to the lip of the canyon we were in, we saw two giant Bump Head wrasse cruise by.

There were tons of fish that I had not seen before,
two new species of Lion Fish and a really bizarre-looking scrolled File Fish.

My book says they are supposed to be like, 3 inches long but this one was more like 2 feet!

We swam back to the dinghies and did our decompression stop.
Everyone was really relaxed and happy, hanging onto the anchor chain and looking around at all of the incredible fish and staring down at the big black chasm beside us.

It's fun to think that we were perched on what once was the edge of an ancient volcano.

I wanted to see so much more down there and was bummed our adventure into the Blue Hole was over.

That's only bad thing about scuba diving -eventually I run out of air!

Making Bubbles

Two more boats came into Anse Amyot and Valentine and Gaston offered to host everyone for a Sunday potluck.

Hunter was positively delighted to finally have an excuse to get away from us for a few hours and offered to go ashore to help Valentine get ready.

Pura Vida buzzed with good vibes, as we dragged our scuba gear from its stowing place our shower...
(can it really be three years, now that I have been showering from a plastic solar shower on deck?)
Jon fired up the compressor to pump our tanks.
Hunter went through everyone's hanging lockers in search of something to wear to the "party".
Bangled and bedecked she plopped down on the settee and packed her "handbag" for the trip ashore.
I watched her out of the corner of my eye, as she admired herself in a hand mirror and squelched my urge to comment on the outfit she had chosen for the day.
"You look beautiful" I said, as she stared at herself in the mirror with rapt satisfaction.
Who says you can't wear a day-glo dress, bike shorts and glitter eye shadow on a sloshy dinghy ride to a Sunday picnic?
"That is the sound of happiness..." Hunter grinned at me,
She was referring to our phenomenally, noisy compressor roaring away on deck.

As soon as we had pumped our tanks, we shuttled Hunter to shore and she waved goodbye as Valentine took her hand and led her off to see some puppies, born just two weeks ago.

Jon and Kai dropped me off and I climbed into the other cruiser's dinghy (so we could divide the weight and make it back in the pass with all our gear) and the four of us set out against the wind and waves to see what waited for us outside.

Once in the lee of the atoll, the wind abated a little.
There was still a pretty good swell rolling up but we managed to tuck in behind a finger of jutting reef and dropped the anchors in about forty feet.
Kai was first in the water and free dove with his dad to check our anchor set and have a look around.
I got the tanks ready up top and a few minutes later Kai poked his head up.
"It's soooo amazing, mom...quick, hand me my tank!"

We dove for an hour, scooting along the edge of that mysterious, terrifying, drop-off and sneaking in and out of the deep sand canyons that cut into the coral reef.

A Shark Sucker took a liking to me and spent the whole dive trying to get tangled in my hair. No matter where I went or what I did, he was always about six inches away and even hung out with me on my safety stop and followed me right up to the dinghy.

Kai, the most gifted kid in the world at spotting stuff underwater (yet somehow can never manage to find ANYTHING when he's not wet) scoped out an absolutely enormous Lion Fish hiding under an overhang.
He was also the first to spot the large Blacktip Shark in the surge and the Grey Shark that ghosted by to check us out as we were all climbing back into the dink.

We raced back through the wind and waves to Pura Vida and while the boys unloaded our gear, I threw together Potstickers and sesame rice to bring to the gathering.

An hour later, I was chatting away with Valentine in her kitchen, munching on smoked fish pizza appetizers and taking notes on her secrets as she prepared her divine Parrot fish saute and the most incredible coconut cake, ever.

After supper, Gaston schooled everyone in Obut (French Bocce ball), Jon says it is just ridiculous how good these guys are at this game.

Gaston and Valentine have a ton of work to be done around here and we offer to help with whatever they need, over the next few weeks.
It's the least we can do, in exchange for getting to loiter here in their paradise.

The next morning, at sunrise, when I crawl out on deck, the wind is still strong but the sky is clear.
While I'm making coffee, I hear something slapping outside our hull. I get on deck, just as a twelve foot Manta glides past, on the outgoing current. I want to jump in but I have bread baking and everyone is still sound asleep, so I pour another cup of coffee and sit and watch this amazing creature swim around the anchorage in slow, wide circles.

The kids begin their school week with a morning snorkel in the coral garden.
Today's mission; field work.
The Manta has taken off for deeper waters but there is still be plenty to see.
Hunter is armed with a small video camera and they take off in pursuit of a suitable subject to observe and write in their journals about.

Jon and I swim nearby, keeping and eye on the large blacktip shark who seems just as curious about us, as we are about him.  Hunter and Kai don't pay attention to the shark, it's not what they're looking for today.
I hear them, popping up and shouting back and forth through their snorkles,
arguing about what variations of fish they think they've found and who's going to photograph what.

The rest of the day spools out in gradual, satisfying events;
schoolwork, writing, lunch of fresh bread and homemade soup,
a visit to shore to see the puppies and what we can do to help Gaston,
separate our trash and burn the paper,
sink the peeled and opened cans off the drop off, where they will make a home for some deep sea critter, while rusting away,
make plans to take some other cruisers diving, hoping they will exchange fresh water (oh, water makers!) in repay for us pumping their scuba tanks.
an early supper, into bed with books as Pura Vida rocks gently on her anchor and the wind howls across the deserted atoll beside us.

Its not life in the fast lane,
and it might not be everybody's idea of heaven,
but when we came looking for Bliss in the South Pacific...
this is exactly what we had in mind .

KAI'S FACT for the day:
coral reefs only cover 1/10 of 1% of the oceans surface-yet they contain 25% off all aquatic life.

MOM: Hey, Kai...maybe you could tell people what its like to swim underwater with a shark?
KAI: I cant speak for all sharks because I have only swam with small, non-aggressive sharks but it is quite exhilarating and makes a boring dive a lot more fun.

HUNTER'S FACT for the day:
French Polynesia has the world's largest shark sanctuary, it covers 4.7 million square kilometers.

MOM: Why don't you write your impressions (so far) of the people you have met in the Tuamotos?
HUNTER: I find them quite different than Marqueseans, I met. They are a lot calmer, quieter people.
Even though on both islands, everybody is very warm and friendly.
Here in Anse Amyot, you are treated like family and Valentine misses the kids in her family and I miss my grandmas, so we both really get something out of being together. They have a lot of animals (including, chickens, pigs, fish and little puppies) and things are always needing doing, so they do they work very hard all day but they still have time to relax and enjoy things when the work day is done. Valentine said she would make jewelry with me one day, as they also have a pearl farm and have lots of amazing pearls left over.
I am learning to speak French with Valentine and she also speaks Tahitian and Tuamotan.
"Kai" means "EAT" in Tahitian and Marquesan, which we think is funny because KAi means "OCEAN" in HAWAIIAN but "EAT" suits him perfectly too!

Why Coral Reefs Totally Rock

Okay, so there are only so many yoga poses one can do on a foredeck before you finally lose your mind.
30 knots in the anchorage, be damned...
We needed to get outside the pass and do some diving!

Lucky for us, another boat came in yesterday, so we had someone to back us up in case our dinghy decided to quit on us. Outside the little pass here, its blowing like 50 knots-straight to Japan-so we didn't want to take too many chances.

Once we had wrangled the new comers in the anchorage into coming snorkeling with us-a call on the VHF explaining how great and clear it would be on the lee side of this atoll and how we knew a really great spot out on the outside ledge, if they wanted to come with us...) we were ready and out the gate in no time. It was howling outside and I did have a moment's pause in the pass as we pitched and rolled with outgoing waves but the idea of getting to be back on the outside reef overrode any maternal fears. Besides, the kids were already hanging out of the dinghy, with their masks in the water, squealing and yelling through their snorkels.

Once we got around the corner and in the lee of the islet...it was all cool.
The wind settled down a bit and we tossed our anchor into a sandy finger, slicing up into the sharp reef.
We were free-diving today, as we couldn't carry the extra weight of our tanks in our little dinghy and have any hope of making it back in the pass. It also only takes about ten seconds to get in the water once you are all there--not the case with two kids and tanks!

I can't possibly do justice to what it actually FEELS like to be underwater here but I'll do my poor-best to try and describe it:

If you've seen a National Geographic video or IMAX film of a coral reef, you can understand what an incredible, spectacle awaits you here...
but to actually witness this living art gallery in motion, be party to the marvel of genius, color and form that surrounds you, thrill and giggle at the feasting, hunting, mating, lurking, playing, skulking creatures that hide in every head of coral...
it's like staring into the face of creation.

Every thought you ever had about yourself, your relationship to the world, whatever you think are your priorities in a day--it all dissolves into one soupy, primordial cocktail. You are simply just another creature on the reef, ruled by the most basic impulses and reactions.

We float around in stunned wonder, marvelling at the beauty around us, but every synapse is firing on all cylinders. Out here on the edge of oblivion, you don't tend to take shit for granted.

The 4000 ft. drop-off our eight year old is swimming over?
Yeah, TOTALLY aware of that.
We may not be THE Apex predator out here- but we do carry some clout.
You can feel it.

We're like gangsters from another 'hood cruising enemy turf.
The residents here treat us with equal parts fear and respect.

We swim around with Blacktip reef sharks, the little ones are terrified, the bigger guys, curious...
but mostly, everyone keeps their distance. When we see a bigger, White Tip Shark, his bullet-shaped, grey body, cruising the hazy edge of the reef... it's us that backs off. Knowing your neighbors is a healthy thing.

When we loll around the edge of the drop off, the distinct feeling that I am losing my place in the predator-pecking-order, creeps over me. Surfacing from a deep dive, I see Hunter has swum away from the group. I instinctively propel myself towards her and gather her back into the center of our pack.
Once she's swimming and diving safely between us again, the creepy feeling disappears.

The whole, cerebral, circuit board is switched to ON.

It is exciting and beautiful and one of the few times in life, I willingly allow, that I am both in and not in control- simultaneously. I am just a passenger on this blue marble, hurtling though space, grateful to have my ticket.

Later, in the shallows, three fairly large Blacktip Reef Sharks close in tighter circles and I wonder (vaguely, slowly...) how brave these fat boys are going to get, and if I should be worrying...
Suddenly, I feel what I can only describe, as an electric punch behind me -and the sharks take off, scattering like shadows. Jon swims up behind me, and I realize, he saw what was happening from far off and he must have emitted some subliminal, protective vibe--just like the one I sent towards Hunter. Without vocalizing our intentions, we are swimming in a pack. We have an automatic, defensive, animal mentality...  Somehow, that's comforting.

I may not know what I'm going to do with the rest of my life,
or how I will make a living,
or make a difference,
or pay for my kids' college or afford health care in an uncertain future...
But I got animal instincts, man.
I can sail across an ocean,
love fiercely, swim with sharks...
and all this crazy, aquatic awesomeness is here.
It's happening everyday
(whatever our overactive minds get up to).
The second you see it,
you know everything is prefect.

That's what diving a healthy coral reef feels like.

Windy Day at Anchor

Its blowing fifty knots outside the pass today...

Jon and I sit on deck, drinking coffee and watching the sunrise light up the whitecaps as they streak past the outer reef.

It looks like exciting sailing out there but we're content to be watching it from our cozy vantage point. Tucked up inside Anse Amyot, we are sheltered from the fetch but these low lying islets don't provide much wind protection. The instruments tell us its blowing 35 here inside the anchorage. The reinforced trade winds are expected to blow for another week (at least) which is exactly what it was doing the last time we were here. For the time being, we will content ourselves with baking, reading and playing with the kids.

They were champs over the past few weeks of grinding boat tasks, so now it's time to reward everyone with relaxing and mini-adventures, until it calms down enough to get the dinghy outside the pass for some serious diving.

Casting our perishables overboard, brings a plethora of crazy-looking remoras out to inspect our offerings. Kai and Jon put on their masks and jump overboard to inspect this prehistoric-looking fish.
Hunter and I lean over the side, watching them.

(Video of remora in Toau, taken aboard the SV Estrellita 5.10b)

Jon pops his head up; "There's a shark right under me"...

"Cool" we say, amazed that this is normal to us now.

"See that shark?" he shouts to Kai.
Kai doesn't bother answering, he just gives a 'thumbs up' and keeps swimming, clearly watching the shark. It's so good to be back.

The winds have stirred up the visibility, so we choose to snorkel in the shallow coral garden near the boat. The variety of fish and coral here is unbelievable.After all the bleached coral we saw in the Societies, the endless colors surrounding us are a thrilling sight. We know over the next few weeks here, we will continue to find species we've never seen before.

Lovely scorpionfish photo from SV Soggypaws
Kai spots a huge Scorpion Fish lurking in a crevice. His camouflage is so extraordinary, he is almost impossible to see, even after Kai has pointed him out. If you stop looking at it's glaring, malevolent eye, you lose him entirely.

A Sling Jaw Wrasse, the first that we have seen here, swims past and Kai and I tail him, marvelling at his spectacular coloring.

Later, Kai and Jon brave the wind chop and take the dingy to a nearby motu to hunt for lobster and crab on the outside reef. Baby Blacktip reef tip sharks play around their calves as they stalk in the shallows. Schools of Bullet Head parrot fish cluster together under rocks, wary of the hunters eyeing them from above.Kai tries to spear them but he finds the shaft on the Hawaiian sling is too short and misses on all his attempts.Our boys come home empty handed from the hunt but filled with plans for tomorrow's venture. Kai spends the rest of the afternoon designing a new and longer spear.

Back on the boat, Hunter and I watch Gaston and some of the other men from the atoll through binoculars.They have waded far out on the reef and are casting hand nets. We can't even begin to guess what they are after, there are so many meal options out there. Unfortunately, the weather holds us back from going to investigate.

Next week, when the winds calm down, we hope to learn from these experts, how to catch dinner here.
In the meantime, we are still well-stocked from our time in Tahiti. There are steaks and potatoes, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes--a king's feast for us.

The wind howls outside, we make dinner and take turns singing and playing on the guitar. Hunter has learned a Nora Jones song and vamps it up, for her captive audience, dressed in one of my old, slinky Hollywood numbers that she found stashed between the foul weather gear and rubber boots.

As the stars come out, the kids crawl into their bunks with their books.
Jon and I lay in our berth and talk about sailing.

We learned some newbie things on our short windward passage here...
Like, when  planning a route to windward, don't forget to take into account, True verses Apparent wind angles! A mistake we won't be making again, on our way to Hawaii :)...

Hunter's fun facts:
Atolls are ring shaped islands with coral reefs.
There are exactly seventy five atoll's in the Tuamotu islands and only 475 atolls in the whole world.

Kai's fun facts:
Coral reefs support over two million species of marine life, that's 25% of all aquatic life on Earth!

Good Evening!

Well, I was gonna post a blog tonight but I am, instead, cooking a huge feast in honor of us being out of Purgatory and anchored in Paradise.

I happened to see a letter Jon wrote to his parents today, and seeing as none of you ever hear much from him, (he's too busy hanging out of an engine room or muttering over some broken hose) I thought you might enjoy some insight into the mind of the man who actually runs this Ship of Fools.

Here is, reprinted with his (reluctant) permission, a letter he wrote to his mum and dad, today...
I couldn't have summed it all up any better.

Well, we have done it!

We are back in Anse Amyot. 230 miles upwind that was more like 300 with all of our course changes. We had to use about 20 gallons of diesel to make it. We had jumped at a weather window that was very tight and meant we had to bust our asses to get everything ready to go 2 days earlier than our earliest anticipated departure. The reason was that a nasty front was coming through and would last a week or more and we just couldn't take the idea of being stuck in Phaeton any longer. The only problem was that the longer it took us to get here, the worse the weather was going to get. It meant we really had to put the engine fix to the test as we had to motor for 12 hours at the end because the wind was so strong in our face and tacking back and forth into it would have taken another day at least. So, with fingers crossed and with me checking everything like a paranoid maniac every 5 minutes we plowed on through trying to make the pass by dusk of the third day. No such luck. Had to brave the entrance in the pitch black and drop anchor in the deep water in the middle with the wind blowing 30 miles an hour. Luckily, once inside, the reef breaks up the fetch so... minimal waves.

I can't describe the sense of relief. After being so broken for so long with no-one to sort it out but ourselves and never being SURE that I would be able to fix it... We don't have enough money to fly home or store the boat and even if we did she would be stuck way over here and slowly deteriorating and losing value and we would have to get back here to deal with her and, and, and.....Phew.

Amazing feeling to be sitting here now. We are the only boat here. It is stunningly beautiful. We have a month or so to soak up everything this place has to offer. No store, no roads, no cars, no google and just us and the local family here, who lives completely off of the land...

I love you,



And here's a little French Polynesian documentary about the Atoll Niau, which is close to Toau, where Jon, Suki, Kai and Hunter are going:

Wet and Bashy

Twenty-four hours of sailing Bliss...
followed by twenty-four sloggy, wet, hours of Bash.

So it goes on the Ocean Blue.

The good news, is, we are now about 17 miles from our intended destination of Toau.

The wind clocked around to the North East (and almost directly on our nose),
just after I posted that cheery email about how wonderful it all was and then proceeded to pick up to 20 knots, then 25...
and now we're somewhere around 27, mostly.

Well, at least, we got to see how close to the wind we could keep our old girl.
She did pretty well, considering how beamy we are...
I don't think we will be racing for team Oracle anytime soon- but she did just fine.
The best we could do was hold her about 40 degrees off the (apparent) wind but once it crept past that,
it was time to re-think our game plan.

The new weather gribs also forecasted that the Pagan gods in charge of this part of the drink
have cooked up a rather nasty cocktail of high winds headed our way...right about now.

(As i write this I have one foot braced against the wall and my chin keeping the computer on the navigation desk...)

The other nifty looking atolls nearby are out (because of their lack of protection) and our best option still looks like Toau.

The wind being directly on our nose, means we have to keep tacking to make our course and this was going to put us in sometime on Tuesday,
leaving us hanging out in some yucky weather.

We made the call twelve hours ago, to kick on the engine and try to keep a more direct line but the
waves and high winds have slowed our progress, making a daylight landfall impossible.

We wouldn't normally try to enter a pass after dark but Anse Amyot is familiar to us and we have our track line on the GPS-
so, we figure we'll go have a look at it tonight and make the call then.

Here's hoping my next post is made tomorrow morning, while drinking a cup of non-air-borne coffee,
safely anchored INSIDE Anse Amyot!

Entrance Anse Amyot; photo from Mark and Vicki's sailing blog.


If you wondered: a beeswax toilet ring!
We held our breath, motoring out the pass and waving goodbye to Port Phaeton.
Jon still had a few kinks to work out with that overheating packing nut, so we were a little apprehensive.
He had pretty much narrowed the problem down to being left over wax stuck in the packing gland--last week, during repairs, Jon dove under the boat and stuffed the seal with a beeswax toilet ring (don't leave home without one!) in order to stop water from gushing into our boat while he inspected the shaft.
His thinking was, that now, some of this leftover wax was jammed up inside the shaft and preventing the salt water flow that usually cools it.
If he was wrong about this, we could have another major problem on our hands.
There was much finger-crossing, shaft-checking and constant measuring with a heat sensor until he finally got it sorted out.
Luckily, he was right.

Pura Vida cleared the reefs and we headed East, for the first time on our adventure.

Our freshly tuned, realigned and re-jiggered engine purred along, it melted the leftover wax and Jon finally took a breather.
We were Good to Go again--at last!

The tropical sun lowered in the sky (behind us!), and Tahiti sank away into a swirl of clouds, nestling over the jagged, green mountains of her South Coast.
The wind was very light and the seas amazing flat and calm. The water beneath us was blue again.
A welcome change after the muddy brown of Port Phaeton.
The kids fell asleep, in the sea berth, comforted by the familiar motion of being on the open ocean again.
Jon and I sat on deck, marveling at how good it felt to me on our way.
I told him over and over how great a job he had done keeping it all together these past few weeks.
It was a scary time for everyone but mostly for him.

The boat felt great, everything looked as bristol fashion as a working boat can be and we had rigged her for a long, windward passage--the first one in four years!
We took down the big Genoa, hauled out the high-cut Yankee and rigged up the loose footed cutter and set the running backs...
If we have to bash 2700 miles to Hawaii-we are ready.
Everything felt right, again.
Confirming our Irie vibes, a mother humpback and her calf surfaced nearby.
Hunter came on deck to watch them with us.
We could here them singing right through the hull of the boat.
These were the first whales we had seen in French Polynesia, since the False Killer whales that greeted us in the Marquesas--it felt like a good sign.

It was a perfect night, Pura Vida didn't set any records, it was so calm we only averaged about three and a half knots--but after all the stress of the past few weeks, it felt like the perfect way to begin our journey.
This morning, as I write this, it's a warm, clear morning, 10 knots of wind, calm seas and everyone is sound asleep.
Nothing makes me happier.

Jon set our course for Toau but as the wind is right on our nose, we have been shaping our course a bit North.
A look at our charts this morning and I notice two interesting atolls North of Toau....
Hmmmmmm..Maybe that's something to discuss with Captain, over coffee when he wakes up?

Toau -- Anse Amyot
A new adventure, unplanned but ripe with possibility....
we're not in any rush to get anywhere...
and this moment its all Bliss...
Which happens to be exactly what the Costa Rican's are saying
when they tell you life is "Pura Vida", amigo.

A Happy Tranny!

 "Once in while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right" 
                                                                                                       -Robert Hunter 

It was a long, strange, trip, down the rabbit hole...
but we're out.

Jon did it.

Once our parts finally got out of freight forwarding purgatory and clear of the clutches of far-too-much-time-on their-hands, French Customs officials...

Jon sorted out that super-complicated transmission thingy, in no time.

It wasn't without its mini-nightmares and sleepless nights worrying about what the heck we were gonna do if it didn't come together. 
We don't have a Plan B. 
This is it. 
There's no money, no rescue team, no 'this sucks, get us out of here...".
We're just out here, 6,000 miles away from home, with only us to count on.

As my buddy Yoda says;
"Try not. Do or do not. There is no try".

Game on. 
Fix that shit.
Or you're not going anywhere.

Four weeks of floating in the murky mudflats of Port Phaeton, while waiting for parts, just crystallized our intentions and our will power.

Our way of dealing with the frustration, was to get super-focused and stay busy.

Jon made an epic list of every conceivable boat job that needed doing and went after them day by day. 
He cleaned and rebuilt the carburetors on our portable Honda generator (invaluable piece of equipment), our dingy engine, and our compressor, changed the engine oil on everything, all the fuel filters, rebuilt the water pumps, retooled the ancient fridge motor again, dove the boat and cleaned the bottom, reorganized our sail lockers, tuned the rigging and on and on...

We cleaned and cleaned, when it was sunny we hauled everything on deck and washed it, settee cushions, blankets, towels, (in buckets) of water (that had to be schlepped and hauled aboard in Jerry cans) and hung them over the boom to dry in the sun. 
We provisioned the boat again with long term stores. Loaded up on inexpensive Thai rice and French lentils, home canned thirty pounds of frozen chicken thighs -the cheapest, healthiest meat available here. I cooked them in giant batches in our lobster pot then separated the fat and bones, canned the meat and recooked and skimmed the broth before pressure canning everything four cans at a time. All that will fit in our small cooker. We ended up with 16 pints of chicken meat and 10 pints of homemade stock for 20 bucks. My Scottish mother would be so proud.

The kids home schooled for three hours a day-even though school was not technically back in session.
They worked just as hard as we did and took on piles of chores as well, shlepping jugs of water from shore and fuel from the gas station a mile away.

One of the very, very lucky things that happened to us, was that we broke down where there was an internet signal. 
It made it possible for us to find our spare parts and order them, keep tabs on tracking our stuff, do research for school projects and even download a couple of new movies on iTunes.

As saving graces go, that was a big one.

There is also plenty of water here and a grocery store within walking distance.

Without those luxuries, this would have been a heck of a lot harder-thats for sure.

It was a strange time, though. 
There is literally no one here but us.
It's  the first time since we left California, two years ago, 
that we have been completely alone with no new friends to meet in a foreign port.
Living aboard Pura Vida when she's out of commission, not being able to swim, fish, sail or walk on a beach,
essentially, we are stuck in an estuary-not knowing if the parts were going to work out when they got here, 
if the cause of the problem was what we thought, 
if our engine mounts were so crippled that it was going to make realigning the engine impossible for us- 
Jon had discovered a half broken foot on one side and we don't have a spare-
disconcerting thoughts and the eerie, stillness of this place,
made for some contemplative days.

We also had a tragedy.

Little Pippy, our beloved Tern, met an unfortunate end.
All was going well and hand rearing was work intensive but she seemed to be fairing well.
She grew daily and as she fledged she took to flapping about recklessly. 
We did our best to allow her plenty of room and keep and eye on her but we only have so much room on the boat.
One day, Pippy got out of her bucket and into some tangle of trouble on deck,
The generator was on and over the noise, no one could her her squawking. 
Hunter found her a few minutes later.
The poor creature had panicked and in her distress broke her wing and her little sternum. 
She just closed her eyes and that was it.
Her little heart stopped.
Hunter was inconsolable and we were all very sad. 
Everyone had grown so attached to her.
She was buried on shore, in a lavish and heartfelt ceremony, 
and laid to rest on the mud banks where the other terns play and feed.

The very next day, we met another cruiser who had returned to pick up his boat that he had left here,
while he travelled back to his veterinary practice in England, for a few months work.
He was lovely, kindly, man, who reassured Hunter (somewhat) by explaining to her that it is very common for wild birds
who are being hand reared to befall misfortune while in the hands of their would-be saviors. 
Wild birds are not meant to live inside houses (or boats) and without a proper aviary for them to practice flying, they often get into troubles. He also told us it would have been very unlikely Pippy cold have been successfully released and able to hunt on her own.

He looked into Hunter's tearful, puffy, face and told her she had done a kind thing giving the little creature three weeks of love but in the future, it would probably be easier for all involved, to leave wild things to their own fates.

The next morning, when we woke, the gentle vet and his boat were gone. Hunter seemed comforted and returned to her old self but it was a sad end to this little chapter of our adventures.

The calm did not last long.

No sooner I had put all the freshly laundered linens and bedding back in the boat...
Kai came down with a sudden and violent illness and projectile vomited all over everything.
Yup. Everything.
I stood, staring in disbelief as my darling, (GIANT) eleven-year-old,  dripping from head to toe, the walls of his v-berth and everything in it, books, stuffies, toys, bedding, pillows, all soaked in barf.
It didn't even look real. 
It looked like a scene from a gross-out, frat-boy movie.
"Honey, why didn't you tell me you felt sick?" I asked, not sure where to begin dealing with this horror.
'I'm sorry, mom" Kai said and then threw up on me.

I had sprained my back a few days earlier, hauling buckets of water aboard to swab the decks,
so cleaning that mess up, while in a partially frozen muscle spasm ( Jon happened to be on a store run) was another comedic event.
Performing any maneuver in a V-berth generally requires Cirque De Soliel flexibility and I was moving like I had a body cast.

Back to the buckets.

Poor Kai, meanwhile, was in the throws of something nasty, with fever and pain and very ill and all that ran through our heads that night as we tried to keep his fiery body cool with damp cloths, soaked in vinegar, was "please, don't let this be dengue.

Thank heavens-it wasn't.

By the next morning, it was clear that it was just a bug and then Hunter got it-and then me.

Of course, our parts finally cleared customs, so as Jon hitchhiked two hours into Papeete to get them-
he started to feel woozy.

At long last, after four weeks of waiting, we had our parts...
and everyone was incapacitated.

I think this was, probably the lowest, low on our trip so far.

There were a few desperate moments, as I was laid out on my back, unable to move other than
to limp out to check on a sick child. I felt terrible that Jon was burdened with all the responsibility of fixing us,
that there was so little I could do to remedy the situation and now, here I was, feeling utterly helpless.

There were definitely a few tears.

Before, setting off on adventure, 
you do worry about the "what if's".
Dramatic night terrors, keep you staring at the ceiling all night...
storms, shipwreck, sharks, illness, gear failure...

I had to remind myself that breaking down in Tahiti wasn't the worst thing on that list, after all.

That people put their backs out all the time and that if I wanted to be constructive, 
i better use the time to think, since I sure couldn't do much else.

I made a mental list of everything I am grateful for.
It was  a long list.

I made a vow to let it be, 
accept things where they are,
recognize that Patience is a practice,
and I was out of shape in that department. 

I went on deck and looked up at the stars.
The Tahitian stars.
Lucky stars.

Jon and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.
Our kids surprised us with breakfast in bed.
We lay in our bunk, and smelled bacon cooking.
"can they do that... by themselves?" I asked.
Jon tiptoed out to make sure it got out of the pan, with no burn victims.

We had an amazing day-even if there were little buckets next to the bunk just in case anyone was sick.

I felt blessed, surrounded by love, 
fortunate to be living my life on an adventure...

We sang and laughed and played songs on the guitar,
watched Iron Man 3 on iTunes...

And the next day,
Jon fixed the boat.

There were a few issues that needed tinkering and it took a few days, but she's up and running again...
and her crew is healthy, too.

We tested her out, drove around the bay,
forward, reverse, neutral...
transmission working, packing nut not over heating...
"Well done, baby", I say to Jon,
who grins back at me.

As I write this, we are still in Port Phaeton-only now we're anchored on our own gear.
and It feels great.

Today, we will stock up on fresh produce for one last time and if the gribs look right...
we'll set sail for the Tuamotos tomorrow.

It's the first time, in two years, we'll be heading towards home.

It will take us a year or so to get there...
but thats just part of the adventure.

I realized in all this,
adventure doesn't have to be sailing across the sea, 
or hiking a mountain in the Marquesas,
or swimming with sharks, 
or dancing the pig dance around the fire...

It's what you make of what you're given,
how you look at it, 
what you choose to feel, on any given day...
that is the true test of our spirit.

We have many people to thank for their help and support over the past few weeks.

John from Trigon, the guy who sold us the used output shaft on ebay, was especially helpful.
He went the extra mile with technical and moral support and included lots of extra little bits and bobs (extra shims) that saved the day.

Cruiser-captain buddies, who helped us out and stayed in touch and worried about us...
(you know who you are)
Thanks and love to Y'all.

And to all our "virtual crew" out there,
Sorry for the delay, but pack your bags and get ready...

Because we're on our way, again!

The plan is to spend six weeks diving and exploring the atolls in the Tuamotos, then, once we feel we're out of danger for hurricanes in the North Pacific, 
we'll set sail for the Hawaian Islands.

Our SECOND big crossing of roughly, 2200 miles-only this time, its not so downwind!

We hope everyone will join us once again, for this leg of the adventure...

Kai and Hunter have a CORAL REEF project planned, while we are in th Tuamotos and will be posting blog updates for all our friends and Honorary Shellbacks about what they discover and what we can do to help protect these incredible natural resources.

We will be out of internet range again and on the SSB, so Emily our Fairy-Blog-Mother has kindly agreed to help us with tech support to keep everyone informed and add to our updates.

Crossed fingers and lots of love, that the next post will be from Sea tomorrow night.

the funeral barge
The long goodbye

Kai puts on a happy face (Hunter  mourning in the bg)

canning chicken while Hunter recovers

Days of this

On the mend...

the kids surprise us with breakfast in bed

15 wonderful years

The kids bust out a Four Seasons worthy fruit plate

and a Sonnet!

Boar tusk hair art

Maybe this is why our package took so long to get here...

ready for anything

sawing down wrenches to make them fit

The hole

rebuilding the tranny

getting the engine alligned to 1/1000ths of an inch...

...using a crowbar to do it!