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!