The Liz Letter:
Just when you were becoming convinced that we must have fallen off the far edge of the world, an email! Thank you for your patience :) We have a lot to catch up on...
On the morning of May 29, we started on some of our boat chores (Max) and school chores (Liz/kids). It was a surprisingly good day. Johnathan started a list of some of the things he had done this school year (everything from "making a bow" at the beach the day before to "crossing the Pacific"; it struck me that there was a certain amount of understatement in some of his entries!) and then he wrote a paragraph on one of them. Victoria was going to do a list, then she was going to write up her "science report" about making bread the previous day, but she ended up starting to make her own star chart like she had been using to make our tests. As for Max, he was able to knock off a few of the items on his maintenance list. Part way through the day, the other kid boats announced that they did not want to hike to the neighbouring bay, they wanted to go there by boat and hike locally the following day. Rather than rushing to go with them (risking a late afternoon arrival at an unfamiliar destination), we decided to leave at first light the following morning. This left us with a quiet evening in the anchorage to enjoy the bonita we had been given (we have found out since that it is better as poisson cru than it is on the BBQ, which is how we cooked it). Having heard a few days earlier that it was our anniversary "in three days", the kids set a lovely table for us in the cockpit, and decorated some "frying pan lumps" that Johnathan had made of his own recipe (not bad tasting for an 8-year-old's cooking...). They were rather put out to have missed it by a day, but this turned out to be just their dry run for the following night.
We woke early on 30 May, but when Max did his engine checks, he found a diesel leak. Since this needed immediate attention, and tightening the fitting turned it from a slow leak into a fast leak, he had his day's work cut out for him, and our plans were adjusted accordingly! The compression fitting (in technical terms - this where a nut screws onto some threads to mate two surfaces, but there is something in the way (an "olive" [or Ferulle]) that gets squished so that it won't leak) on a teeny copper pipe (which seems to be the only part of the engine for which we do not have spares) needed to somehow come apart and have the little piece inside (the olive) either refurbished or replaced. By this time, there were only a few other boats in the anchorage, and we knew that at least two of them had gone hiking, but we radioed one of the remaining boats, and asked if they had any experience with these type of diesel lines. The wife answered the radio and relayed questions from the husband. We could tell from the questions that had some idea of the problem ... and then we heard the golden words - "would you like Walter to come over and have a look?". Would we! Walter coming over to have a look turned into Walter spending the entire afternoon with us (less two visits back to his boat to use his on-board lathe), fashioning a new fitting (Plan A, which turned out not to work) and then using the lathe to carefully remove the copper from under the olive from one end of the copper pipe and a file to somehow fit it onto the other (Plan B, which worked beautifully)). The long and the short of it was that by evening (late for the dinner he was meant to be at) he dropped back a ready-to-use segment of pipe that Max could fit onto the engine in short order, and which did not leak at all. Good as new! It was such a good feeling to start the engine, count more seconds than I had been able to count earlier in the day, and have it deemed a success :) [We have so many spares and tools on board but again we were missing the critical part. Onto our shopping list goes spare copper tubing and ferulles for 1/4" copper line. We have a full gasket set for the Perkins engine but the fitting was not part of the engine-proper. Our backup solution was to use JB weld to make a temporary solution but Walter's fix was far superior. Also confirmed that the exhaust elbow does have a small leak but I should be able to fix it temporarily. The welder that made the elbow was recommended by the incompetent riggers in Anancortes so not surprised the welds failed already. Max]
By now it was the evening of 30 May, our actual 16th anniversary. With the galley emptied of dads and tools, Victoria moved in to make dessert - we are trying out our frying pan to make bread-type things, so she made biscuit dough and then used apples, butter and brown sugar to make four turnovers. We put these in a hot frying pan, covered them with a lid, and they were surprisingly good. In the meantime, needing something simple for us to eat, I used a bottle of the pork that Nancy and I had canned, added some leftover rice, a can of corn, and some chopped apple, and called it a roast pork dinner in a pot. Victoria then banished me from the Saloon and set about decorating. She came up with an ingenious way of segmenting the port side of the table with sheets hung from the ceiling, made letters to spell "Happy Anniversary" that she hung on another banner (aka pillow case), set the table with a lovely cloth, and set herself up as our waitress for the evening. Max and I (and Benjamin, who chose that moment to wake up) were served dinner for two, complete with wine, appetizers, and a bill (which could be settled in chocolates!) It was a lovely way to celebrate.
Yesterday morning (31 May) we had a not-crack-of-dawn-start, and motored next door to Hatiheu. This bay has a small village (I learned today that 150 people live here) where we went for a walk with our NZ friends soon after our arrival. Almost immediately, we ran into the lady who had given us the bonita! Her husband is the village nurse, and she is a volunteer tour guide. She suggested that she could bring us to the nearby historical site the following morning. I wasn't sure I wanted to commit to anything without knowing the price (tours in Atuona had been very expensive), but when I asked the price, she told me that she would take us simply for the pleasure of showing us her island and her culture. Amazing. We are not used to generosity like this in Canada. She also told us that the restaurant was closed for the weekend, but that the church was having a fundraising supper that night, serving a variety of local food. As we walked by the church a few minutes later, we saw a group of ladies sitting at tables under a bit of a tent. I thought that perhaps they were preparing food for the big dinner, but when I wandered closer to ask about tickets, I found that they were playing Bingo! All the ladies were very friendly, and so we decided that eating there would be easier than cooking on board, and certainly more interesting. They had a menu on the wall, so we were able to choose amongst various choices, familiar and unfamiliar .. poisson cru, goat (cooked in curry, coconut milk, or red wine), prawns (curried), lobster (bbq'd) accompanied by rice, manioc (a root veg similar to a potato cubed and fried), poké (cooked bananas with coconut milk), or a "fruits de mer" concoction which seemed to be grated coconut and seafood. Even though we only ordered two items from the menu (goat and poisson cru), we ended up with more food than the four of us could eat! (I thought about writing this email once we got back to the boat, but falling asleep with Benjamin and Victoria was just too enticing...)
This morning, we were up bright and early to be sure of making our 1000 timing, and we went ashore with a backpack laden with water, snacks, and a picnic lunch. Our new friend took us to the historic site, which is where traditional Marquesan meetings and ceremonies occurred. Everything was restored for a festival a number of years ago. There were a variety of petroglyphs, as well as banyan trees, which have a particularly interesting history - the roots of these trees grow from above as small stalks which drop from the branches to the ground. This makes the trees have a kind of hollow structure. Several were tens of feet across. One of them actually had a pit some 6-8 feet deep at its roots, with a brick wall around it, which was where prisoners would be kept until they were sacrificed/eaten. We were told that when the missionaries came, the tribes would put some of their traditional artifacts in the middle of these trees (eg skulls and items used for ceremonies) so that they wouldn't be taken away. It led to some interesting conversations with the kids about the arrival of Europeans both in French Polynesia and in Canada and the way their forebears had treated native culture, language, religion, etc. There is a small museum here, and our guide had borrowed the key for us so that she could take us around. Once we were finished the tour, as a gesture of thanks, we asked if they would like to come to Fluenta for dinner. At almost the same moment, as we prepared to leave to go back to the boat, she wanted to know if we would like to join her and her family for lunch!
We ended up eating lunch with them and dinner aboard Fluenta (Mom's Sweet & Sour Meatballs - with meatballs fashioned by V&J, rice, canned mixed veg (which really no one likes, but we have no other veg at the moment), and apple crisp (all but one of the last of our Mexican apples) for dessert. Her husband had spent 24 years in the French army as a nurse, so we had a great deal to talk about over both meals. Our heads were hurting from so much French conversation by the time they went home (dinner was truncated by a "please come now" phone call from one of his patients, so their apple crisp was a to-go course), but we made arrangements for me to take Benjamin for his 6-month jab tomorrow morning, and he offered to take Max fishing in the afternoon! It has been a full visit, and we are not done yet. As if they had not already been generous enough, they also brought local meat from their freezer - goat and beef. I am not quite sure what we received, but we will have a go at cooking it as time goes on! We had shared some body lotion after lunch, and during that meal her eyes had lit up at the mention of maple syrup, so I will bring some ashore for her in the morning. It was nice to have something unusual, and Canadian, to share :)
Whew! That pretty much brings us up to date on the last few days. I hope this little note finds you well. The boat is quiet now, and I have a stack of dishes calling my name ...
With much love,
At 6/2/2014 9:08 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 08°50.00'S 140°05.00'W
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