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.