Saturday, 5 July 2014

Back to the SE of the Atoll


Just when you thought all manner of terrible things must have happened to us because there was no note for a few days, we are back :) It is amazing to me how much of my day is taken up with the daily chores (cooking, cleaning, diapers, and oh, holding a baby who doesn't want to be put down); add in a run to the beach, and another day easily goes by without a chance to send a note. Tonight, I just decided to write to you regardless, so here you go :)

When last I wrote, we were anchored at the north-eastern "bend" of our atoll. We moved on Canada Day to the south eastern corner of the same atoll again (a transit of about 8 nm, or about 1 1/2 hrs underway). This time, we are in the anchorage where our Swedish friends were last week, which has a nicer beach. Learning our lesson from our transit north, we came with strong sunlight (overhead and slightly behind us) on the reefs. *Most* of them are marked on our chart (Navionics, for those who care about these details...), but there is always the sneaky one that was missed that we have to be alert to. As with last week, we crossed the atoll with one of us (Max) on the bow and one of us (myself and Benjamin) at the helm. It was one of those times when we were grateful to have a weather forecast; the wind was almost dead calm, and if we hadn't been forewarned that it was going to swing to the South/East and build, we could have happily stayed put. We heard from people who came here a day later that it got very choppy that night, so we were glad that we had moved when we did! Even though we have been here before, we almost had to pinch ourselves it was so pretty when we arrived. The water is several shades of turquoise, the sand is a brilliant white, the palm trees give a green contrast, and we have the soundtrack of the ocean surf pounding less than a mile away on the outside of the atoll. The view from our backyard" is like something out of a holiday brochure!

Our Belgian friends came down from the other anchorage the same day. Their children are 11 (girl) and 7 (boy) so the four kids can play well together. Their first language is Flemish, but Mom & Dad speak English and French, and the girl has taught herself English (and German) since they began their cruise less than a year ago. It is lovely that the kids can go to the beach with either set of parents (we took their kids when we went on our last pass snorkel, and they have taken ours to this beach twice), so we have been able to get some jobs done on the boat without the kids going completely stir crazy while we work.

Given that we can choose our own timezone onboard, it was not too much of a stretch to choose our own date as well: we celebrated July 1st on July 2nd so that we could enjoy the whole day. We started with waffles and (Canadian via Mexico) Maple Syrup, then we raised a huge Canada flag [the one given to me at the flag raising ceremony at my retirement from the CF - I think there are pictures of the ceremony in the early posts of the blog] from the backstay and went to the beach in the afternoon to have a bonfire. We had one of the nicest social evenings we have had in an anchorage since our bonfires in the Sea of Cortez last year. The kids had their own fire, so the adults had time/space for quiet conversations while the kids played with hermit crabs and other creatures. Their fire was larger than ours at one point because one of the dads helped them pile it with 10-foot palm branches; I think he was enjoying his second childhood! Hotdogs never tasted so good, and our campfire "pain au chocolat" bundles were a hit all around :)

One of the results of yesterday's bonfire is that we have a new crewmember on board - Charcoal the salamander. He got his name because he came running out of one of the logs that the kids put on the fire. We are hoping that he will earn his keep by eating some of the bugs that have plagued us since Mexico. Our new little friend is about 2 1/2 inches long and quite cute. He spent most of the day, once he was released from his water bottle terrarium, tucked in behind the sand dollar that was glued to the mirror that Allison and Victoria made before we left Mexico. He chose this spot after climbing over all the shells on the mirror.

We have been doing lots of swimming and snorkelling. It turns out that we were lucky we saw so many manta rays the first time we did our pass dive. Our Belgian friends went back the next day and didn't see any. We went the following day and only saw a few. They are amazing, gentle creatures, and we feel blessed to have swum with them. Max (assisted by Johnathan) has also been getting his fill of breath-hold diving, keeping his eye on our anchor. When he checked the anchor on our arrival, there was a *huge* fish under the boat (so big that he got Johnathan to jump in and take a look as well). It turns out that it was likely a Napoleon fish - they are typically several feet long and also very tall. He and Johnathan had the sense that the fish was very old; it just gently checked them out. It is good to be vigilant here; the chain tied itself in a half hitch around a coral head when the wind shifted the first night here (kind of unavoidable; we had actually set the anchor in the direction of the new prevailing wind, but we still got wrapped, so we just put out more chain and waited for morning). When he went down to free it, it was very tight; thankfully our Belgian friend used to be a commercial diver, and he showed up to help [at 35' it is "doable" to fix but a lot of work as I do not have a lot of bottom time at that depth - more practice needed]. Johnathan was there with Max, and he loved playing in the air bubbles as they rose to the surface.

Given the gentle waves at the beach, even Benjamin has been in the water. He is well looked after; at one point yesterday, he had three little girls fawning over him. The Belgian girl has a real fondness for him, and must have held him for the better part of an hour last evening during dinner. It was lovely to have both hands free for a while!

The biggest news is that we have finally launched Trickle [our Fatty Knees sailing dingy]!! She was in good shape after her ocean crossing (her sling and cover worked super well), and we launched her while we had light winds yesterday. Max and Victoria sailed her to the beach, but their consensus, given the number of coral patches in the shallows, was that it would be better to sail her around the big boats next time. Johnathan had already gone ashore with the others, so Benjamin and I drove the rhib into the beach. I am sure that this was a sight to behold - nursing then sleeping baby in a wrap "helping" to drive the dingy! It felt even more like I was multitasking when I decided to row the last bit through the coral. It was gratifying to make it to the beach under our own steam :) The wind was back to 15+ kts today, so Johnathan will get his turn to sail Trickle another day. [I am thinking we will see if we can get a new but much smaller sail made for Trickle as winds under 10 kts seem to be rare in the South Pacific].

We will likely stay here for a number of days - it is like a cruiser's holiday location. Although there is no fresh water, no town, and no fresh fruit, and it therefore wouldn't be paradise forever, it is pretty close in the short term! There are lots of atolls that we won't see, but we are happy to have come to this one beautiful spot and to relax for a few days. Every transit brings stress and the possibility of something going wrong, so a longer stay here is working well for us. We will likely visit one more atoll in the Tuomotus, and then head for Papeete.

[Maintenance update - the leaks in the kids' cabin seemed to be fixed so I put the puzzle pieces of woodwork back together. I will still pull the window out and completely rebed it when we are in New Zealand. I also finished resplicing the grab lines on the RHIB. The fabric guy in Mazatalan did a satisfactory job on the chaps but obviously had no idea how to splice so the grablines came off within a few days use. The repair to the header tank seems to be working fine - epoxy to the rescue yet again. Next task include catching up on routine scheduled maintenance - air filter cleaning, engine and oil cooler zincs etc. Max]

Love to all,
At 6/26/2014 8:30 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°58.00'S 144°35.00'W
At 7/4/2014 8:49 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°58.00'S 144°35.00'W

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