Friday, 25 July 2014

We are living in an aquarium

Greetings!

The wind stopped briefly today, and the water in the anchorage went completely still around the boat. Just around this time, we threw out our "overboard box" of kitchen scraps. I was in the galley preparing various foods and snacks for our upcoming passage when the others started to exclaim and to call me to "come and see - bring the camera". I grabbed Benjamin (no time for hat/sunscreen/clothes/wrap), and ran up the stairs. We were perched on top of a 30-foot deep aquarium! We had four sharks, numerous angel fish, a remora, and various other species (that you will have to ask the kids about, because I don't know them by name!) all exploring the scraps that Max & the kids were throwing overboard (with great splashing to get their attention) one item at a time. For the better part of half an hour, we tossed scraps and watched them circle (although they didn't eat much of what we gave them.) The water below was as clear as the air above, and even deep down to the bottom, we could see fish, coral, and sand. A short while later, a slight breeze picked up, the surface returned to its usual rippled state, and the view to the world below closed again. It was extraordinary.

Max & the big kids are camping ashore tonight - it is our last night in the Tuomotus. We thought that this island was so tiny that it would not have any creatures on it, but it turns out that not only are there rats, but they climb trees! (I am somewhat happy to be hanging out on Fluenta with my familiar bugs, soon to be eradicated by a professional). I understand that their supper of foil-baked marlin, foil-baked potatoes (chopped with enthusiasm by Johnathan), and canned corn was quite yummy. When we spoke on the radio, they said that they were too full to eat the canned fruit that I sent (but they might have room for the squares of chocolate...)

As for Benjamin, he has been sleeping most of the evening, so I have made yogurt, sugared/salted nuts, granola, pancake mix, and chocolate cake (V would like to decorate it tomorrow, but we will see!!) in preparation for our passage. I will set out the (mostly canned) ingredients in the morning for a big pot of soup. The saloon and aft cabins are stowed. I will help Johnathan with his room while Max sorts out the last-minute items (ie post-outboard/dinghy) on the aft deck, and we will plan to weigh anchor at 11am. The passage to Papeete is expected to take about two nights, with an arrival around mid-day on the third day. We have booked ourselves into the marina there to make our stop as efficient as possible (at 100 CPF/foot/day - we will keep our visit short!) and we will coordinate with our agent for the exterminator, the fridge guy, provisioning, and internet access (yes, you might even see some photos while we are there!)

Love to all,
Elizabeth
PS - We are enjoying our bananas from the man in the village at the north pass, but they are not as sweet as Marquesan bananas. We still have four pamplemousse, but they are starting to look a bit sad. It will be good to eat lots of fresh fruit & veg when we arrive!
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At 7/23/2014 5:56 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°31.11'S 145°28.55'W

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Thursday, 24 July 2014

More Snorkelling and a campfire ashore

Hello!

The highlight of today for me is a three-way tie :)

*** It might be the hour or so that I spent snorkelling in/near the pass while Max & Benjamin drove the dinghy.

or

*** It might be the few minutes of stillness in our new Mexican hammock, hung between two coconut trees on the beach, just before a beautiful, cloudless sunset.

or

*** It might be the evening of family time sitting around a built-by-the-children campfire, later watching one child catch fish by hand, one child build his own fire, and one child sleep in my arms.

I don't even need to decide; I will just tell you about the day...

We are planning to head for Tahiti (Papeete) in two days (we have a weather window), so today was the last full "fun" day in the Tuomotus before we spend most of tomorrow doing passage preps. We decided to snorkel in the morning and spend the afternoon on the beach. Benjamin slept before we went, so he was happy hanging out with Max during the snorkelling. The kids and I had a long drift across the pass and then another along the edge of the reef. There weren't many sharks, but the water was incredibly clear and flat (just the way we hope it is when we leave in Fluenta). It was glorious to simply drift along, keeping my eyes open for kids and sharks and fish (and finally sharks & fish as the kids had enough before I did). In one area, we saw pairs of fish swimming gill-to-gill; Victoria saw them doing a spiral pattern. We think they might have been doing some kind of mating sequence. In another area, I saw big eyed fish stacked like firewood under a boat. At one point, the water was 70 feet deep, and we could see the bottom!

We dropped Johnathan at the beach after we went snorkelling because he wanted to build his own shelter and a ladder (with lashings), then Max, Victoria, and I headed to Fluenta for a quick lunch before returning to the beach armed with hot dogs, hammocks, and other necessities for an evening ashore. There wasn't much daylight left but we did manage to hang our hammock, and both of us had a few minutes to sit in it. "Peace & quiet" is a bit of a misnomer, but there can be a certain joy in listening to kids making the various sounds that kids make. Victoria was teaching Benjamin to splash in the shallows, and Johnathan was using his knife to make a club out of a palm frond. We were also serenaded by the sounds of some kind of ocean bird, and of course the constant pounding of the surf on the outer reef.

There was absolutely no wind in the late afternoon; everything was still and quiet, and we were the only ones on our beach. We realized that it was nice yesterday to share it with other cruising families, and also nice to enjoy it alone today; it strikes me that this is typical of cruising in general. Victoria & Johnathan started our fire, and we burnt such a big log that we ended up staying quite late on the beach: it was almost (cruisers') midnight (ie 9pm) when we returned to Fluenta. Max and the kids have determined that this will not be our last campfire here, however. Their plan is to stay ashore tomorrow night, so we will need to work efficiently to do both boat preps and shelter preps during daylight. The menu may be a little posher for our celebration - we still have some wahoo in the freezer that we can wrap in foil and cook in butter, and surely we have something desserty that we can cook on the fire. We might even try pottoes in foil again, perhaps cooking them for less than 90 min this time!

As we dinghied back to Fluenta, we realized how spoiled we have become - there are five other anchor lights shining on our side of the pass, and it feels a bit crowded. On the other hand, the other side of the pass seems to be offering a taste of the "bright lights, big city" that waits for us in Papeete: several huge yachts are at anchor, and they are ablaze with lights.

Anyway, now you have a taste of our lovely day; I hope things are lovely wherever you are as well.
Love,
Elizabeth
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At 7/23/2014 5:56 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°31.11'S 145°28.55'W

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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Diving (no sharks) and a bonfire

Hello!

Max and the kids got their exercise today diving on Fluenta, using the last of the air in Max's tank in anticipation of having it refilled at the dive shop tomorrow. Both kids love to breath-hold dive on the hull and rudder to help clean away the barnacles and growth that can slow us down on passage (we sure don't tell them that it is work not play!) It was with a certain relief that they finished with no sharks ambling over to check out the proceedings. Even though they seem benign, it is kind of like having bears in your back yard that want to come to sit on your porch. According to Max's dive master, there has only been one shark attack here in recent memory, and that was of a local fisherman who was cleaning fish and reached into the water to pick up a piece of steak that he had dropped. The shark thought he was stealing food and expressed his displeasure. That being said, nervous or not, we will probably go to the pass again tomorrow and drift-snorkel with them!

As Max and the kids were preparing to dive, we had a visitor. One of the other cruisers is a teacher in her "other life" and she had mentioned during the pearl visit last week that she had some books she likes to read with kids. She had come over to read to them! We all learned a bit about wombats, dingoes, koalas, and other creatures native to Australia. I love watching how our kids glow when they are engaged with an adult who is not one of their parents :)

Victoria and I had some fun this afternoon. In preparation for one of "my four-day pedicures" (Day 1 - remove polish. Day 2 - shape nails. Day 3 - apply new polish. Day 4 - tidy everything away ... ), my bundle of polishes had been sitting on the table for the last few days (I had made it as far as day 1 a few days ago). "Give me your hands," she said. "Ok," the new me said (the old me would have refused and told her that it was lunch time and I had chores to do; lovely mother-daughter moment would have been lost to the mists of "might have beens"). After several very carefully applied layers were completed, I found myself with five different nails on each hand - one each of brown (earth), neon green (grass - colour selected by Johnathan for Victoria's last birthday), orange center/blue spots (flower), blue (sky), and orange dot/blue surroundings (universe). I certainly wouldn't have produced such a creative manicure myself! Who knows what my eventual pedi will look like :)

We all went ashore in the late afternoon for a sunset bonfire. When we arrived, there were already folks there from two kid boats. One boat has a French family who have been living in Tahiti for the last 15 years (along with his parents who have come here to visit them for a month). The other has a family who, in their own words, is half Spanish, half Italian, and half French (and who speak English after a few years in the US). The second family has three big girls (12, 10 & 8) and a small boy (4), so it was fun to speak to a mom with similar experiences as ours. After meeting Benjamin, her kids have started asking why they can't have another baby too :) This beach is lovely, so we are planning to spend most of the afternoon there tomorrow, and maybe even get some nice photos as the sun is setting on the other side of the lagoon.

On the food front, I successfully made yogurt last night. My first two batches had turned out to be quite spotty/lumpy, so this time I poured the hot milk through a tea strainer before I added it to the starter, and it turned out to be a much smoother consistency. Without a yogurt maker on board, I heat the milk powder (400 mL) and water (900 mL) almost to a boil, then cool it to 110-120F. This just nicely fills a 1L mason jar. Months ago (back when we had wifi) I read a blog post by Estrelita where Livia described using their pressure cooker to cure the yogurt. Of course, I don't have this post to refer to now, so I decided to add hot water (approx 125F) to my pressure cooker to a depth of about 6+", set the lidded jar of milk/starter in it, cover the pot and wrap the whole thing with a towel. Since I started late in the evening, I left it only the minimum time (4 hr), then stirred it (to stop the action of the cultures) and put it in the fridge overnight. It was lovely and thick when I checked it, so I think we have our technique and recipe (thanks to SV Litorina in Tahanea) that I will just tweak from now on. Fun. I am looking forward to the time when various from-scratch foods are second nature to make each week (yogurt, bread, granola, dried fruit, etc). None of them are hard, but they all take some planning, coordination and practice.

Dinner was much less homemade: wieners on roasted on sticks and eaten in wraps with ketchup. We were going to be healthy and eat sweet potatoes roasted in foil, but we left them too long (ie the whole evening ... we found them when we were putting the fire out!) and decided just to throw the resultant charcoal to the fish :)

We are starting to look ahead to our post-French Poly itinerary. We can go to NZ either via the Southern Cooks or the Northern Cooks. As we read accounts from other cruisers in the various compendia and cruising guides, each seems lovely, so somehow we will wade through all of this information, throw in a bit of intuition, weather forecasting, and scheduling, and come up with our plan for the early fall. As you may have seen on our blog, we are hoping that someone will jump aboard with us in the November time frame to sail from Tonga to NZ with us, as this has the potential to be a bouncy passage. It will be fun to see who joins us :) (Let me know if you have someone in mind).

Anyway, that pretty much sums up a lovely winter day (27 deg C) in French Polynesia.

[Maintenance update: not much to report. As always, there are unplanned arisings. The recent case was a strong chemical/paint smell in the cabin. We have an extensive collection of sprays and whatnot (what at work would have been called the POL Locker but alas not up to a standard that would have passed an AFSO inspection. Sadly considering I was at one point a Aviation Fluid Services Officer). After gaining access to the POL locker the smell got stronger and then I started finding the trail of black goo. Turns out a can of belt dressing let loose creating a lovely slick of toxic gunk. All cleanable but not what I had on my maintenance schedule. At about the same time we noticed that the fresh water pump seemed to be straining. Normally we replace the water filter every six months but was clogging already after three months. Acess is again a pain but not complicated. Thankfully we also stocked up on filters in Mexico. What was on my maintenance schedule was the every six week topping up our almost 1000 amp-hour house battery bank with distilled water. Not a complicated job but time consuming as boat disassembly and boat yoga is required to fill the 24 cells (eight x six volt batteries with three cells each). We also have two six volt batteries for the windlass bank and a 12V start battery. Liz mentioned the hull cleaning which we try to do monthly as well as checking the prop and shaft zincs. It was a treat to do the cleaning with the SCUBA tank than freediving. The inexpensive Comex paint seems to be working much better than the expensive Trinidad SR paint we had applied in Anacortes. Max]

Happy summer and love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 7/23/2014 5:56 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°31.11'S 145°28.55'W

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Diving and Snorkelling at Tetamanu Pass (Fakarava)

Greetings!

Today's email is a combined effort ... I will give you the general update, and Max will fill you in on the details of the diving that he did here.

Yesterday morning was an early one for Max ... he left the boat just after 0615 to go diving. Early morning is the dive master's favourite time of day as the light is supposed to be the best. The kids and I had a quiet Sunday morning (I had a moment of "Holy Smokes, it is Sunday again!" and put on my "Sunday Music" playlist. We don't make it to any kind of church, but I play my "soul music" for everyone as often as I remember!) Again, with care of the soul in mind, I left the kids reading, and meditatively cleaned the cabin, enjoying my own company. It was so much more peaceful than nagging them to help, creating angst, and still doing the whole job myself. Even Benjamin cooperated by sleeping on the bunk where the big kids were reading. It was lovely to do the basic chores that tend to get missed when we are coming and going - tidying, sweeping, dishes - and everyone enjoyed the space when I was finished. Breakfast was a Sunday Brunch of corn pancakes.

In the afternoon, we dinghied over to the little beach by the resort where the sharks like to swim. There were four local children swimming and carrying on when we got there. Neither they nor the sharks paid each other any attention. As Max describes below, we took his diving gear, and the kids got a chance to blow some bubbles in the shallow water. It is still rather surreal to be standing waist deep near the beach, then put your face in to watch the sharks swimming around! I was able to join Max under water because the "boss lady" of the resort (the same one who taught us about coconuts the day before) came over (twice) and offered to hold Benjamin for me. On the second time, I said yes! He stayed with her, walking about and watching people for a good 20 min, and only cried when she let someone else hold him (and a bit of baguette fixed that!) As the afternoon wore on, two other kid boats worth of dinghies joined us on the beach, so after a little play and a chat, we all headed back to the anchorage. There are two ways to get there - the long way (following the channel around the reef and into the anchorage from the 'back') and the "short" way (crossing the channel, hugging the beach, and walking the dinghy across the really shallow part). All three families took the "short" way back, and it was quite funny to see everyone walking and towing their dinghy. We used the long way today!

This seems a good spot to inject Max's dive summary ...

***

Diving.

We talked to both dive shops but only Topdive would accept my ACUC card. I received the ACUC certification when I completed the Navy's Ships Diving Officer course many years ago. I do not know if ACUC even still exists. I dove as a Ships Diving Officer for HMCS PRESERVER and while at RNAS Culdrose but have not done a lot of sports diving. Although we carry a set of diving gear and two tanks onboard Fluenta we do not have a compressor so diving is reserved for hull maintenance and anchor retrieval that is too difficult to do free diving unless we are lucky to sailing with a boat with a compressor (miss you guys in SV Sweet Dreams !). {Liz note - ie Max still generally dives for work but not for fun!}

I did three dives over two days in the Tetamanu Pass of Fakarava. All three had elements of drift diving and I saw lots (and lots and lots) of sharks. On the second dive we stayed stationary near a canyon where the current is fairly quick and the sharks stay relatively still over the ground but with good water flow. In these spots you could likely see 50 or more sharks at any one time and there were three waves of sharks. All quite close but they seemed unconcerned with our presence. Biologists were here a few weeks ago and counted 650 sharks in the passage itself. On the last dive we used Nitrox to increase our bottom time at depth. Again, lots of sharks but also large schools of barracuda, some Napoleon fish and one huge triton shell. I took my new toy for the passage, a Go Pro camera, on the dives and took many pictures so some will end up on the blog once we have internet.

Since I dove with the local shop they will fill my dive cylinders for a reasonable cost. However, the tank is not fully empty as I only used a bit of air doing the epoxy "cap" to hold the skeg bolts in place, so copying from SV Nautilus I took the kids diving. We kept it very simple. They used my spare regulator from my tank and we just sat on the bottom two to four feet below the surface and watched the sharks swim around us. Liz had a chance to go with my two and left Benjamin with a Tuamotuan lady ashore for a few minutes to sit on the bottom and check out the sharks. Again, the sharks are most unconcerned with our presence in their domain. I went for a snorkel along the edge of the pass as well and saw another large Napoleon fish.

Today, the kids and I did some drift dives snorkelling along the reef with Liz and Benjamin manning the safety boat as we bounced along towards the ocean. Again, an incredible diversity of fish and lots of black tip sharks. Johnathan went for an extra dive and saw one Napoleon fish in the distance but were unable to swim against the current far enough to get close. Perhaps tomorrow.

***

Back again ... so yes, Benjamin and I manned the safety boat while Max and the big kids swam along the current. It is a bit nerve wracking to follow three members of your family, not get too far away and not run them down when you pick them up, all while paying attention to the movement of the current. It was especially stressful because I am I am out of practice as Johnathan tends to be the one to drive us around these days!

Before going diving, we had a marathon Harry Potter day here today. We watched the third movie last night, and both kids read hundreds of pages in the seventh book today; they finished within 10 min of each other this evening! It was lovely and quiet; they each had one of the Kobos (we bought two in the fall) and there was no argument over whose turn it was with the book the way there is with one copy of a paper book!

Benjamin is a fan of pretty much any flavour. Lunch today was a chili-bean-chicken-corn soup (from cupboard to imagination to pot all in the space of 20 min), to which I had added extra hot sauce to my portion. When Benjamin started making his "I want what you have" sounds, I started giving him one bit on the end of the spoon at a time. He gobbled it up! The funniest part of today, however, had to be dinner time. Dinner tonight was a Wahoo fillet from our previous passage. {Supposedly the fish is good in this atoll, but we have elected not to take chances, as there seems to be some fish from some areas that are not safe. We will fish again when we are on passage.} Since our little "high chair" only mounts on the saloon table, when we eat in the cockpit, we often sit Benjamin beside us on the bench and give him a towel as a mat to make the cleanup easier. He quickly decided that he was done sitting still on the mat beside me, so Max took a turn. We don't have much in the way of recognizable language from him yet ... but the meaning of the loud grunts he makes when he sees food that we haven't yet shared is pretty clear. Max fed him for a minute with his grownup fork, then even that was not enough for Benjamin - he had to have the fork in one hand and fistfuls of rice in the other. He was like a little bird that hadn't been fed in a month! The whole family was laughing, as was Benjamin. It is such a delight to have a new little person in the mix! (And it is times like these when it is nice to be able to turn on the salt water pump and spray the entire eating area to do the cleanup :) )

If we were closer, you wouldn't need all this detail - you would come for dinner and watch Benjamin for yourself! That not being the case, this little note will have to suffice, and allow you to join us for dinner (and diving and living aboard) vicariously :)

Love to you all,
Elizabeth
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At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W

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Monday, 21 July 2014

Seeking Crew for Tonga to New Zealand

We will be looking for an additional crew member for the Tonga to New Zealand leg in November. The advert for the passage is below. if anyone is interested:

SV Fluenta is looking for one crew member to accompany them on the 1100 nm passage from Tonga to New Zealand in November 2014. Fluenta is a Stevens 47 cutter with a family of five onboard: Max and Elizabeth and their children who will by then be aged eleven years, nine years and eleven months.

Details on their journey so far and on Fluenta herself can be found on their blog: SV-Fluenta.blogspot.ca

Crew duties on passage will consist primarily of standing watches in rotation with Max and Elizabeth although he or she is expected to help with any other boat chores as with the rest of the crew. Watchstanding duties will be tailored to the crew's experience and competence and the expected conditions.

The intention is depart Tonga in November when there is a favourable weather window. Fluenta has engaged Bob McDavitt as their weather router. If conditions are suitable, Fluenta will stop in Minerva Reef enroute. The intended destination is Whangarei but Fluenta may check into Opua if that makes sense at the time. Both are close to Auckland.

Fluenta will cover all costs onboard and as well as any restaurants ashore and any visa costs to enter New Zealand . The crewmember will be responsible for costs to get to and from Fluenta.

Crew accommodations will be the V-berth of the boat. However, if conditions make sleeping in the V-berth uncomfortable then there are also two sea berths available in the saloon. Fluenta is a non-smoking boat and is "dry" on passage (other than perhaps champagne at the halfway mark for example).

The Stevens 47 is a 1980's Sparks and Stephens design with a modified fin keel and skeg hung rudder. With her significant ballast ratio and moderate displacement-to-weight ratio she is a sea kindly passagemaker allowing reasonably swift passages.

Max holds a RYA Yachtmaster Ocean (with Master of Yachts 200GT commercial endorsement) certificate and is a Canadian Yacht Association (CYA) Advanced Cruising Instructor. Elizabeth is also RYA and CYA trained and has sailed over 10,000 sea miles. Both have completed various sea survival courses and Advanced Medical First Responder Training. Max's sailing CV can be found on the Linkedin website.

Whilst it will be impractical to conduct a formal sailing course during the time period, instruction in passagemaking will be provided as much as is practical and desired by the crew.
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At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W

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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Diving in the South Pass

Greetings!

Benjamin is still awake (crawling around the cabin, showing me just how baby-proofed we are not!) so this will be a short note for a pretty neat day.

Fakarava South Pass is famous for its diving - water clarity, sharks, fish, and coral all combine to make for an extraordinary environment (thus the UNESCO designation). We visited both dive shops this morning, and arranged for Max to dive this afternoon with one of them (while getting the rest of our questions about snorkelling answered as well). Armed with times and locations for the afternoon, we headed back (cross-country as it turned out) to Fluenta for lunch. By cross country I mean that there are wide patches between the pass and the anchorage where the depth was about 12-18", requiring us to lift the outboard and paddle.

Returning to the pass after lunch, we beached the dinghy on a little sheltered beach that was accessed by passing through a very narrow gap in the reef (carefully marked with two pieces of rebar sticking out of the coral). During the slack tide, half a dozen or more sharks come near the shore. In waist-deep water, we just put on our masks and put our faces in the water to watch them. They seemed to have no interest in tourists for dinner at all. Max's dive was outside the pass where they could swim with loads of fish and about 100 sharks. It is rather surreal, especially because no matter how safe I have been told they are, I am still nervous of them. {These sharks are about 3-5 ft long, with a pale yellow colour and black tips on their fins, etc. We were told today that biologists have recently counted the population and there are 650 in the pass, not counting the ones outside the pass). I will leave it to him to tell you more about the diving.

Once the kids had had their fill of swimming with the sharks, their attention moved ashore where two resort staff members (and one worker-guest - he is there for 2 months and is helping out for a few hours each day to earn his keep) were husking coconuts. Since babies and children are great icebreakers, I asked Johnathan if he wanted to go watch. In a combination of English and French, we learned to husk a coconut using a stake in the ground, then Johnathan was allowed to try. Once they realized how interested Johnathan was in all things coconut, they couldn't help us enough to learn about them and to try them. In the space of 20 min we had tried a drinking coconut, a "fruit" coconut (which is entirely edible, including much of the husk), a hard coconut (including a demo of the rasper they use for shredding it to make coconut milk). This required two of the people to go to different sides of the resort to find just the right coconuts for us as well. Fun!

It was late afternoon as we were heading back to Fluenta. After navigating the shallow part of the journey (paddling and at one point walking ... it was reminiscent of the Wood Islands flats when the tide was mostly out, except that the bottom was hard coral instead of mud) we thought we were home free when - BANG - we found another coral head (tower) in the anchorage itself! Thankfully, we were still going quite slowly, so the dingy stopped short and we were surprised but fine. In the lowering sunlight, we hadn't seen the coral head before we were literally on top of it. We were hardly a chain-length from two boats that were anchored beside us. Thank goodness we didn't find that coral with Fluenta! (And thank goodness the bottom of our dinghy is aluminum - these coral heads would likely puncture a rubber-bottomed dinghy) We rocked the dinghy off the coral and continued on our way. Needless to say, our foredeck crew kept a very vigilant watch as we returned to Fluenta!

Anyway, that is all the excitement of the day. Benjamin has gone to sleep in my lap, and the morning will be early (Max's dive rendez-vous is at 0645) so I will sign off here.

Much love to everyone,
Elizabeth
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At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W
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At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W

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Fakarava South Pass

Greetings!

We left our solo anchorage this morning at around 1015 for the 2-hr motor transit to the south pass anchorage. Thank goodness we left when we did and arrived at noon, while the sun was high in the sky. The anchorage is a hard-won prize after a journey of about a mile through a coral field. Even with waypoints from another cruiser (once again, Soggy Paws), and standing on the bow for a better view of the coral, it was still challenging to navigate the last stretch. Were we ever relieved when we had our anchor set! We had radioed our Belgian friends on SV Nautilus from the channel, and we ended up anchoring right beside them, which was nice, since they are leaving early tomorrow morning for Papeete (Pap-ee-et-eh). After lunch, the kids went ashore with them, then we followed a short while later. After the trip to the beach, the girls came back to Fluenta to play cards (and to play with Benjamin) and the boys went to Nautilus to play with PlayMobil - those toys have been around almost forever, and they never fail to capture the kids' attention. When we went to take their daughter back, within a couple of minutes all four children were deep into the play.

We have found yet another beautiful spot - turquoise water, white sand beach, and glorious sunshine. It feels like we could spend weeks in this one anchorage. This pass into the atoll is world-famous (designated by UNESCO) because of its shark population and Napoleon fish (I think). In fact the interplay between the sharks and the groupers was filmed during the last full moon (before we got here). We will go to the pass/beach tomorrow morning and see what we can find; our friends showed us some spectacular photos of both sharks and Napoleon Fish tonight. Unfortunately the 90-day clock is ticking, so we will move along within the week.

Given the beauty of this place, I guess it is not surprising that many more cruisers have discovered it this year as compared to other years. Usually there are only a small handful of boats in the anchorage, but right now, even towards the end of the season, there are a dozen boats. In fact, it is possible that we are enjoying the last season of anchoring here: we heard this afternoon that by next year, people will have to anchor in the SE corner of the atoll, about 7 nm away. It is sad that not only are there more boats, but some of the sailors have not practiced good stewardship (anchoring on coral, leaving garbage for the locals to dispose of, taking food without asking) which has likely escalated any changes to the regulations. I am glad that we have made it here now.

That's all the news for a day on the move. It is nice to be in one spot for a few days. And if you are wondering about getting your Ben-fix, we should have internet in Papeete, so we can upload some photos then :)

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W
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At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W

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for information see: http://www.sailmail.com