Friday, 18 July 2014

Enjoying Fakarava


No note last night was supposed to lead to an early bedtime, but instead it led to an evening of washing diapers! Sometimes I just need to catch up on chores, regardless of the time of day (and I have to admit that it was very peaceful pegging them to the lifelines as the clock approached midnight).

Part of the reason for the late chores was that we had spent the evening as a family watching an episode of a documentary series on the South Pacific (this one described some of the theories about how the islands were populated with plants, animals, and people), and then we spent some time looking at the charts, considering our options for the rest of the season. The children were quite interested in the paper charts, especially since most of our navigation is electronic.

We arrived in Fakarava in the early afternoon of 14 Jul, which meant that we arrived here on Bastille Day. I think the local folk must be early risers, as the celebrations took place that morning (beginning with games for the children at 8:00, and including a noon meal to which everyone was invited) so we just had a walk around the town and took in a few minutes of a soccer game that was going on. There are two other kid boats here - Galactic and Caminante, so we have spent a little bit of time with each of them.

We got a reasonably early start yesterday morning as this village is our best hope for provisioning until Papeete, and we picked up a few things (four oranges, a few apples, a handful of onions, and some rice, flour, and cans). When there is very little in the shops, it makes the bags very light to carry back to the boat! We have plenty of canned and dried food on board (again, I am thankful that I loaded up as much as I did in Mexico), and there are big shops in Papeete, so we are not desperate. It also means we can leave for the UNESCO-designated south pass tomorrow, without having to wait for the supply ship.

Victoria and I stopped into a shop marked "Artisanat" on our walk. It turned out to be a lady making pearl jewelry with pearls from her family's farm. Did they do tours? Yes. Could we go? Yes - how about tomorrow? Was there a cost? No: their business is making pearls, not running tours, so the tours are a free service. Thus, we spent the morning today learning about Tahitian Black Pearls. Many of the lagoons in the Tuomotus are full of pearl farms, but the industry seems to have taken a hit recently because of a drop in the wholesale price, so I believe that there are fewer farms now than there were a few years ago. Each pearl takes 18 months to form in the oyster, and each oyster can be used up to four times to grow a pearl. Because of the downturn in the industry, it seems that this family is now only producing a fraction of the pearls that they used to, and selling mainly to tourists and friends abroad. It was fun to do my birthday shopping in their shop ... and more fun to wear my new pressie home :) (After all, it is *almost* September!) We had a "Wow, it's a small world" moment at the pearl farm. One of the other cruisers on our tour had spent a lot of time with friends of ours from Halifax while he was in the Caribbean last winter :)

Max and the kids spent some fun time yesterday afternoon swimming around and under Fluenta. Both kids are keen to breath-hold dive to help Max clean the hull and rudder. All three of them were a little less keen, though, when they were joined by a shark who decided that he liked the water under our hull as a place to hang out! He seems benign, but they have not been taking chances! The water is so clear that we can see its markings when we throw scraps overboard and he comes out to eat them. In addition to shark watching, we also watched a pair of tuna hunting a school of ballyhoo from the dock this morning. Again, the water was so clear that we could watch the whole scene unfold, as the tuna swam slowly towards the school of fish, and then turned on the speed just at the last moments.

We took advantage of this bit of civilization at noon today, and ate out at a Grill that has just opened. The food was good, the prices were reasonable, and the view (over the lagoon) was spectacular, so I think they will do well :) The stores take a three-hour break at lunch time, so we returned to town for a few provisions when they opened again at 3pm. I mentioned to a couple of local folks that I was looking for vegetables. A lady told me that the fruit/veg stand (quite a ways down the road) was all out, but then her friend told me that he would give me some bananas for Benjamin. After a rather hilarious back and forth exchange in French between two men, we were given a stalk of bananas. I am not sure whose tree is now a branch short, but I gratefully accepted them "for Benjamin" and we headed back to the boat!

We spent the evening tonight with new friends from SV Galactic. They have been cruising for more than 7 years, and have kids aged 8 and 4; we had lots to learn from them. They left NZ at the beginning of this season, and are headed for South America. Makes our trek look pretty straightforward! We will hope to see them in the South Pass later this week. It is always so nice to have company; the tools & parts go away, the children's belongings find their way to their cabins, the floors and counters get swept or wiped, and in general Fluenta puts on her presentable face. In this case, the tools were mostly related to the electrical projects Max has been doing this week, especially lighting installations. The cockpit now has new strip lighting that will make it easier to eat dinner at anchor, and I will be glad for the tools to come out again so that the galley can also be brighter. Gotta love LEDs! Max also spent some time this repairing a bolt hole in the boom vang (epoxy to fill, then drill & tap, then fill with glue as the tapping stripped as well).

We have said goodbye to our first Spotty the Gecko. Johnathan found him this morning, so he and Victoria gave him a true burial at sea, complete with coconut boat and tinfoil casket. Hopefully Spotty II will join us soon. There has been no sign of Charcoal the Salamander for a couple of days, but this seems to mean little; he keeps showing up every few days. Both creatures are about 2-3" long, so they have an easy time hiding on board!

We are going to head south tomorrow. The entire distance is about 6 hrs of motoring, so we think we will anchor overnight somewhere along the way. This will reduce the stress around our departure time (less rushing to leave) and give plenty of daylight to see the coral heads along the way.

Much love to all,

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

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