Sunday, 5 October 2014

Suwarrow to ourselves (Plus the Rangers)


It is past midnight in a momentarily quiet anchorage. Everyone else is asleep, fresh bread is breathing under a tea towel, new yoghurt is cooling in the fridge, the galley is "put to bed", the heap of (clean, wind-blown, sun-bleached, not-folded) diapers can wait til the morning, and I thought it would be nice to cap off a lovely day with a note "home" :)

We have spent most of these last two days on the boat, doing both post-passage jobs (laundry, stowing) and pre-passage jobs (engine stuff, sail inspections). We are not sure how long we will stay here, so we would like to get the "work" done soon so that we can play and be ready to leave on short notice if the wind changes.

We are going to have a BBQ with the ranger couple tomorrow evening; we had invited them to the boat, but there is more room for the kids to run if we go ashore. This being a national park, there are no beach bonfires here, but there is a BBQ. It is surreal to walk through the compound where we have seen photos in books and blogs of so many cruisers gathering over so many decades. We are not sure if we are alone because it is nearing the end of the season, or if it is because word has spread that the glory years of going on expeditions with the rangers and returning to roast the day's catch on the beach are a thing of the past. That being said, it is good for the soul to be alone in a beautiful anchorage! We are sure not complaining, but we are definitely surprised. After being the only boat in Penrhyn, we had expected to see lots of folks here... on the other hand, it seems that we timed our visit well: there was a cruise ship with 2000 people on board here about a week ago, and it will be back again in a couple of weeks. That would have *really* surprised us!

The kids and I had a bit of an adventure today. As we were reaching the end of the afternoon, the bread the kids were making was ready for its first rising, and the jobs Max was doing weren't quite finished, we traded our usual roles, and Max stayed on the boat while I took the kids ashore. We have been instructed not to throw our kitchen scraps overboard, but to bring them to the other side of the motu, where dozens of sharks come into the ankle deep water right at the shore to feed. This is to avoid encouraging the sharks to eat food around the yachts in the lagoon - makes sense to us! Victoria & Johnathan were in their element throwing scraps and watching the sharks go after them; I was rather shocked to see how close the sharks came with no issues! Sunset was approaching, so we headed back to the dinghy. The wind was blowing, as it had been all day, at about 15-20 kts down the beach. I found that it wasn't nearly so easy as Max makes it look to hold the boat in place, and then lower the outboard (but not too far), start the engine, and drive away, without being blown back onto the beach, while wearing a 20-lb baby in a wrap. Our first plan of paddling madly to get into the slightly deeper water was also very short lived, as the wind pushed us towards the derelict-but-still-in-use rocky dock 100 yds away faster then the kids could paddle away from the beach. Standing in thigh-deep water, I decided that we needed to change things up a bit: I strapped Benjamin onto Victoria, gave Johnathan a paddle and told him that his only job was to keep the boat pointing away from the beach, and then with both hands free (no baby to hold onto or worry about banging his head onto the outboard), I found that it was an easy job to drop the motor, start it up, and drive us the short distance to Fluenta. It was quite funny in hindsight, but it had a sense of "so near and yet so far" and "whose crazy idea was this anyway" as we were in the midst of it :)

I have mentioned bread a couple of times -- I finally got on with using the pound of yeast and 30 kg of flour that I have on board today and made a "proper" batch of bread (ie big enough to be worthwhile - 5 c liquid/15 c flour). I started it, but Victoria and Johnathan took over completely as the flour was being added. Without any fuss at all, they emerged from their electronic worlds to position themselves across from each other at the saloon table, and started kneading and forming bread. Johnathan took a small piece and saw it through to a tiny loaf; Victoria kneaded the entire batch and then formed the pan of buns and two loaves of bread, while singing Christmas carols (her season started as soon as we booked our tickets home ...). It turned out really well, and they were both really proud of their efforts. We even threw a few math questions into the mix - if I have 600mL of yeast, and each batch takes 15 mL, how many times can I make bread over the next 8 weeks? (5x/week... so we should have plenty of yeast to see us through to NZ!). I also had a whoops-mama moment - I lightly said that I thought Johnathan had added too much flour to his little piece (this, after he had proudly shown me how he had found it getting tough, added a little water from a water bottle, a little dough from the big mound, and now had a much softer piece of dough) - he looked absolutely crestfallen. I backtracked quickly and said that I thought it just needed a little more kneading - did he mind if I had a go? No, that would be OK. Thankfully, a few good kneads was all it took, and I could tell him that I thought his dough was soft and lovely (which it was). Sometimes the home-education applies at least as much to the parents as to the kids!! His little loaf (complete with a dough "J" placed carefully on top) turned out beautifully. He has asked if we can make bread on his birthday, so that he can make figures out of the bread dough. I told him that of course we could.

Dinner the last two nights has been skipjack... we have discovered the "Fluenta secret" to enjoying this fish (perhaps others have always done this, but it was new for us). Skipjack can be a bit strongly flavoured, and we have usually just bravely gotten it down, but I cut the good fish away from the bloodline and dark fish, then marinated it in soya sauce before cooking it yesterday, and everyone loved it so much that we had the "same again, Mom" today!! We had planned to BBQ it last night, but I ended up frying it on a hot dry pan (hot enough to set off the "mom is cooking" alarms throughout the boat; tonight, Benjamin was asleep in his hammock, so I chose the quiet option of cooking it in liquid so there would be no smoke :) Either way, it all disappeared.

As for Benjamin, he has spent his afternoons at anchor playing in a water-tub in the cockpit between the benches. It is low enough that it is shady, and the water seems to be helping the heat rash that is covering most of his body ... again (as soon as I think it has all cleared up, it comes back). Benjamin is not at all bothered, and he *loves* playing with the kids and Max ... I love the freedom to do chores without his help:)

I am venturing out of my own world here, but I thought you might like to hear about some of the boat-jobs that have cropped up. One of Max's to-do items today was to check the engine. It is good to be out of the marina - the zincs are still good and lasting well. Our exhaust elbow needed another little dab of epoxy (it was new in 2012, but it keeps leaking so we'll get a new one on NZ...) His amalgamating-tape repair to the fuel line had literally disintegrated and fallen off, so now it is back in business with another coat of Rescue Tape. (The stuff that fell off may well have been a Mexican knock-off; this tape was much nicer to handle than the other roll). On the down side, we found another fuel leak on this passage, so now he has to learn all about the fuel pump to see where it might be leaking. He also found a hose clamp (new in La Cruz last spring before we left for the Sea of Cortez) that had corroded off, so he replaced that. Funny how one little inspection can lead to so many jobs .. but this is why we do the checks! When we inspected our staysail after we got here, we found that it had ripped a bit in its bag, where it had gotten caught on a cleat. When it is not blowing 20 kts (like it did *all day* today) I will patch and sew the holes.

This is hardly a short little update, but I hope you enjoy this little window on our world. I certainly enjoy getting your emails here :) It looks like there will be windy weather in Nuie on the 7/8 Oct, so we will likely stay here while that blows through (about a week). Suwarrow to Nuie is about 500nm, then Nuie to Tonga is around 400nm. We expect to be in Tonga before the end of the month. Doug arrives there on 31 Oct.

Love to all,
At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W
At 10/2/2014 5:26 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 13°14.00'S 163°06.00'W

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  1. Hello crew of Fluenta. I really enjoy reading your blog. Will you please share your bread and yogurt recipes? There are so many on the internet but I am sure yours are boat proof! Thanks, Luisa

    1. Hi, I will ask Liz to post them when we have time with better internet.




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