Friday 12 June 2015

11/12 Jun - The village comes to us and brings a feast!


Today's story starts yesterday just before lunch time. Victoria and Johnathan were completing the last of their 2014/2015 school work, having come back from the beach shortly after Victoria's breakfast. Julie (Nirvana) announced that she was heading to the village for a bake sale and had room to share; Jesus, Victoria and I (and of course, Benjamin) joined Julie and her son, and we set out shortly to see what we could find (I was hoping for some fruit and some eggs).

After the usual 15 min dinghy ride and 15 min trek on the clay path (past-the-knees skirt donned quickly on the shore), we reached the first house in the village, where they had a table with oranges, coconuts, squash/pumpkins, and eggs for sale. In the community hut in the middle of the village the ladies had set up a variety of foods for sale (most notably, rotis and chocolate cake). BTW - I don't know if I have mentioned the rotis before: they are a soft flat bread that are often used to wrap around a curry filling. We passed on the cake (too hard to transport) but had a roti each for lunch, and took some back for Johnathan & Max. Tasty! Victoria and I sat beside our "host mom", chatting and admiring the 3-month-old baby that her neighbour had, while Jesus sat with a small group of men.

During the lunch (which seemed to have been put on for our enjoyment) the topic of fishing and picnicking came up. It seemed that the village had decided to come to the sandspit today for a lovo (earth oven) picnic. Although the plan continued to develop during the afternoon (as plans do), it was determined that they would come to our beach at about 10 am, and we would catch land crabs (not to be confused with either mud crabs or coconut crabs, although I a not sure what the difference is!) and go fishing with nets. Our friends on Lumbaz went ashore later in the afternoon, so they came back with an even more clear understanding of what we could expect today. This seems to be how plans develop here ... very much on a "need to know" basis!

Victoria got yet another go-with-the-flow lesson when we were ready to head back to our anchorage. The pull-cord handle for Julie's outboard snapped off, and the cord disappeared inside the motor. Yikes. A quick call on the radio yielded a socket set & screw driver, and Julie very capably took the necessary bolts apart, fed the cord back through its path, and got us going again. Since my hands are so often full with Benjamin, it is rarely my turn to fix things on Fluenta with tools, so I love when she sees examples of other moms calmly doing what needs to be done. Once it was fixed, we got good and wet coming back, as the trip was mostly into the wind.

During the afternoon, we decided to use some of our melted Mexican chocolate chips to make oatmeal cookies for the feast. Johnathan spent the afternoon on the beach, and Victoria and Jesus did the baking. Our host mom ate several today, so I think they hit the mark!

At dinner time, we had the chance to enjoy the fruits of Max's spearfishing labours :) He had brought back a parrot fish on his last trip, and we made it into ceviche. (Funny story - I forgot to buy salsa when I was provisioning, but during our nice dinner out at Marsden Cove, I asked the restaurant if I could buy some from them. They decanted 500mL into a coffee cup, which I transferred to a mason jar, then I used my vacuum gadget attachment (thanks, Marilyn!) to vacuum the lid closed, and the salsa was perfectly fresh yesterday. I used what I needed, vacuum sealed it again, and totally expect that the one jar will do us all season!) Once again, we made "Fluenta ceviche, which is the raw fish "cured" for 20-30 min in lemon juice (no limes here), drained, then mixed with a couple of tablespoons of salsa. This is much quicker than proper ceviche, and there is no need to keep fresh onions, tomatoes, or cilantro in stock! The parrot fish was a nice starter (some people say it is their favourite white fish), and we had a chicken curry for dinner. We ended the day visiting on Nautilus, while the kids watched movies on Exodus.

My dad mentioned in an email that some folks wonder where the parents are when the kids are on shore or on one of the boats together, so I thought you might be curious. We always leave them with a VHF radio, they are collectively a very mature group of children (four are 12+) and we all are available to come if they need us. In other words, there are often parents available but not immediately present. We are all enjoying the increased freedom compared to our previous lives at home :)

Benjamin, on the other hand, is rarely beyond arms' reach. He is learning to say more words (mamamama, seet down (sit down, which he does quite happily if it looks like I will pass him food or drink), up, nana (banana - we have lots), apple (we are all out, have been for days, and won't likely see any more before NZ), chs (cheese, accompanied by the hand sign as well as clear gestures towards the bottom door of the fridge where he knows that I keep it), and 'at (hat, which he doesn't like to wear nearly as much as he likes to say)).

We had a bit of a surprise overnight - our high water alarm started going at around 2am. It seems that it was a combination of water from our fresh water tank (we had been making water during the day, but we are not sure if/how some got into the bilge) and water from a small leak in our salt water hose pump. Max and I pumped the bilge, and he tightened some fittings today. Hopefully it is sorted.

The situation with our watermaker is a maddening - we paid a good (hefty) sum of money in NZ to have our working "clark pump" overhauled, and now we are hardly a month into the cruising season, and we have funny sounds coming from it and the capacity seems to be reduced by half. Max has been in touch with both the manufacturer and the NZ techs, but it is stressful to contemplate being on water rationing procedures for the next several months.

This morning dawned grey & windy. We thought briefly that we would have an on-boat school day, but the village came en masse at around 1030, many of them on board Lumbaz, who had anchored near the village last night and moved back to this anchorage today. Soon, our beach camp was a hive of activity. Several fires were lit, smoke hung heavy in the air, and groups of people were dispatched to catch fish and collect crabs. Benjamin was a very popular member of the party - he played near the edge of the beach most of the day, dressed in his new, bright yellow, sunsuit. I never did a head count, but there were six boats, and I think all of our host families.

Many preparations had been done at the village, but the coconut milk for the miti sauce (coconut milk, lemon, diced onion, diced peppers, green onion, salt) was made before our eyes: several coconuts were husked (good way to involve the cruisers...), cracked in half, and grated using a rasper like we bought in Papeete last year. The coconut had some water poured onto it, then it was squeezed by hand to release the rich milk before the solids were washed into the sea and the miti prepared in the pot. Johnathan and Max went on the crab hunt, while Victoria got to try her hand at making the palm frond plates that everyone used. "She's a quick learner" I was told (I wasn't a bit surprised). The villagers even built a large table to hold the food (framework of poles lashed together; palm fronds and poles balanced/lashed on top to form a serving surface). When the food was ready, we all sat on the ground in an area that had been cleared, and some palm fronds had been laid out to provide a flat surface. It was a bit daunting to stare back at the whole crab that Victoria and I were sharing, but she dove in and expertly removed the meat from the legs. The body was a bit darker, so (given that it was a rather small crab) I have to admit that I handed that bit off to Jesus, who seemed to be enjoying the lesson in getting all the good bits out that he was receiving from the lady next to him. In the end, we had casava, "flour" (bread made with flour, coconut, and sugar - very good), both of which had been prepared in the lovo, several kinds of fish (including a box fish, which no one seemed to have seen before, a large mullet, and some smaller trevelly), whole crabs (that the kids had been taught to dispatch with a straw before they were cooked whole in a pot with some leafy branches on top, ... biology on the beach, yet again), huge clams that Salote caught, and cookies for dessert.

As the day wore on, I began to hear rumours that "the villagers would like us to come to the village for kava, singing, and dancing tonight". Since 4pm is *not* a good time to move heavy boats with deep draft because the light is too low, we decided that Max & Jesus, along with several others in another dinghy, would go on our behalf. The catamarans moved back to the village anchorage, as they draw a bit less. I haven't seen the boys back yet, so the kava update will have to come tomorrow.

It was a full and rich day. We were privileged to be welcomed here with a traditional feast, and to have the chance to visit with several different families. The local kids were in school, but our kids played together on the beach, and we all enjoyed the presence of a few toddlers & preschoolers. Lots of wide, friendly smiles :)

Love to all,

PS It has been too windy for Trickle the last few days... but she has had a good run since we got here :)
At 6/11/2015 8:26 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.04'S 178°32.52'W11/12 Jun - The village comes to us and brings a feast!
At 6/11/2015 8:26 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 19°09.04'S 178°32.52'W

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