It used to be a region of the Pacific that sailors would avoid at all cost. The Tuamotus archipelago is the largest chain on atolls in the world and it presented navigation hazards due to their very low elevation -at most a few meters above water level- and the currents between the atolls.
Now with GPS and better weather models, this archipelago has become a must-do layover for sailors on their way to Tahiti for the formidable underwater ecosystem, home to corals, fish and pearl oysters.
On our way from Nuku Hiva to Tahiti, we stopped there for about a month, only visiting 2 of the 80 atolls: Kauehi and Fakarava. Here is the compilation of our footage.
If interested in more details than what we could put in the video, here are the posts of our satellite blog covering that timeframe.
Leaving Nuku Hiva for Tuamotus (day 1) – June 11th 2019
Tue Jun 11 2019
No butane fill up this morning so we prepare the boat for departure: we removed the outboard and stored it on the pullpit; we stowed the dinghy on the roof; and hung or stored all the fruits.
We circled around the boats that didn’t leave yet to say bye. We are planning to see most of them in the Tuamotus but we are not travelling in a pack as we were planning. Knot Home is a longer and faster boat: they will leave tomorrow and should catch up; Vega also is fast and they will stay two more days in Taiohae before joining us there; Maple left one hour before us and we should stay in close range for the trip; Marisa needed a few more days to get ready: we might see them in the archipelago or back in the Marquesas in a few months.
The seas were rough when we exited the bay. The wind was at 15 to 20 knots from the port beam. As soon as we set the sails, the ride got smoother and more comfortable. Still, the motion of the sea after having stayed at anchor so long is tiring so the adults started the nap cycles. A part for some dolphins and some flying fish, not much happened in the afternoon. Thirty minutes before sunset, we got a double hit on our fishing lines. That got me out of bed very fast. We pulled out of the water a small yellow fin tuna while something bigger was “waiting” on the other line. When we could reel the second one in, it got loose. It was probably another yellow fin but we were too slow to handle it. Next time we’ll tell them both at the same time.
Our catch of the day was quickly processed into nice fillets and then cooked directly for dinner with pastas and corn. We still have some more fish for fresh tuna sushi tomorrow.
The night begins; it is time to go and check around for other ships.
Position: 9 35S 140 27W
Bearing: 204 magnetic
Trip: 51 nautical miles
Distance to destination: 476 nautical miles
Speed: 5.8 knots
Moving average: 6.2
Wind speed: 15 knots
Towards Tuamotus (day 2) – June 12th 2019
Wed Jun 12 2019
Our moving average plummeted during the night as the winds died down. With 6 to 8 knots of wind, Ubi kept moving although at a slow speed of 2 to 3 knots. Thankfully the sea was calm with a small swell and therefore it was quite a comfortable night. Nothing to report except an episode of light rain and a “near” collision. Somehow we gained on Maple during the night and we ended up at about 100 meters from them around 3am. Janet, who was on watch on Maple, radioed us to clarify the situation. She told us that she didn’t know how we stood on night watches and whether or not we would keep someone at the helm. She mentioned they know of families who go to sleep with all sorts of alarms but no one on shift. We reassured her that we saw them and explained we had the intention to overtake them on their starboard side. But that was wishful thinking, the low wind prevented us to go past them. We added 10 degrees to the right to give them some room and slowly diverged from their course. They found some wind and gained more than a mile on us over the next few hours. In the early morning, their sails were visible at the horizon; they must have shaken off their reefs or optimized their sail trim. The wind came back in the morning as our moving average was flirting with 5.2 knots. Ubi woke up and started to run better. We alternated naps, books and screen time for most of the days. We ate two grapefruits and three mangoes, some leftovers and a raw fish bowl tonight. We all gathered around 5pm as the sun was getting ready to set to wait for the fish to bite. It is typically their hour. We got two bites on the port fishing line, but no fish was reeled back to the boat. Oh well, we had enough fish today and tomorrow we’ll start over. At 7pm, the night is dark. The half moon is at its zenith and moves from the clouds as a peaceful manta ray. When it sets at starboard, the bioluminescence appears. We see it clearly at the stern leaving a sparkling trail from the flow around the propeller. It is like condensed star dust in the milky way. It is mesmerizing and its spectacle helps fill the otherwise rather empty night shifts. Tomorrow we should cross the half way point. We computed that we need an average speed of 5.3 knots to be there Saturday for the 3pm slack. At 5.6, we could have the less advantageous 11am slack. So we are faster than needed at this point but we want to keep building up our margin as it is easier to slow down than to speed up. We haven’t change the reefs in our sails nor adjusted the trims today. The autopilot keeps taking his crucial role very seriously and we are very thankful to it.
A banana stem almost got lost today as the line that was holding it was chafing on the stern arch. The line is damaged but will still hold the load. We changed its position to avoid the chafing and we added bungee cords to damper their movement. Some bananas will be ripe tomorrow so we might bake some muffins.
It is over 7pm now. I’m heading for my first part of the night, lying down in Noah’s bunk.
Position: 11 22S 141 43W
Bearing: 203 mag
Speed: 7.1 knots
Moving average: 5.5 knots
Trip: 181 nautical miles
Distance to destination: 347 nautical miles
Towards Tuamotus (day 3) – June 13th 2019
Thu Jun 13 2019
Last night the wind picked up a lot during Nath’s shift. She woke me up to roll up a bit the head sail but I encouraged her to try doing it herself: I was comfortable in bed and I knew she could do it. So it was good for me and good for her confidence that she managed to take a reef in it. Even reefed, we would still go above 7 knots. When I took over the wind was above 20 knots, I rolled the gib even more and we were still flying. The sea state was rather calm so we could have stayed with a larger sail area but we are still ahead of our schedule so comfort takes priority above performance and speed record. We lost track of Maple: last we saw them, they were on our port side, maybe 3 nautical miles. Their AIS has intermittent issue, so does their VHF so we were not concerned. When the night came, their running lights got masked by the waves. We speculated that we went faster than them during the night. We have no way to know for now. This evening we see a ship in our back port side. We think it is probably Maple but it could be Knot Home. They should have left a day later but they are much faster with more than 10 extra feet of boat length. If they are comfortable with sailing at their top speed in this wind, they should catch up to us and probably reach Kauehi before us. The wind stayed strong today. We pointed a bit more into the wind to convert speed into better angle for times of weaker winds. We made pita breads for lunch and we ran out of butane. We connected the extra tank, which is smaller, and finished our baking. We’ll need to find someone to refill our main tank or switch back to regular butane tanks.
The sunset brought many puffy clouds that brings more colors and perspective to the display. We are on stand by for a fish bite as we established this is their preferred time of the day but nothing yet. At 6pm the sun is set, the nights are starting to be longer. Our fridge is acting up a bit and runs too often. So our power consumption is a bit higher than usual these last nights. Nothing too worrisome though. During the day, we have plenty of sun to recharge and produce more than we can use during the day. I still dream of a larger battery bank; we might need to solicit donations to get there ; ).
With our good speed, our average has climbed to 5.7 knots. At this rate, we should be able to reach Kauehi early in the morning and be in a good position for the morning slack through the pass. According to the guides, the pass is well marked so it should just be a matter of timing. Once in the atoll, we would still need to travel some distance to find a good anchoring spot. The dimensions of these atolls are hard to wrap my mind around. The whole island of Tahiti could fit inside one of the larger arolls of this archipelago. I guess we’ll have a better idea of the size of this one once we’ll be there.
No fish showed up. We’ll eat leftover for dinner, with apple sauce since it is Belgian night every second Thursday of the month.
Position: 13 20S 143 04W
Bearing: 204 mag
Speed: 5.24 knots
Moving average: 5.7 knots
Trip: 325 nautical miles
Distance to destination: 205 nautical miles
Towards Tuamotus (day 4) – June 14th 2019
Fri Jun 14 2019
Last night the wind did not die down as it did the night before. We kept our trim and continued building up a strong average. The weather forecast we downloaded in the morning called for more winds. We reefed a bit the head sail when a squall was coming and shook it out afterwards. We kept a comfortable 6 knots. The ETA for the pass was estimated in the early Saturday morning, around 4am, where it seems we should be there around 9am. We built up enough margin, we could slow down at night and eat it up. We got distracted until noon by the catch of the day. A double hit on the two fishing lines we set up. As I was reeling in the first one, the second one got free. Not an issue considering the force I had to exercise to bring in a few feet of line. We do not use fishing rods, we simply let lines of spectra with a bait and a hook drag behind the boat. When a fish bites, the bungee cord attached to the line is stretched out and gives a visual clue that it is time for action. To bring the fish on the boat, we need to pull the thin spectra line back on the boat. Typically, the over-hand method works well but today it wasn’t enough. As I was gaining a few inches, I wrapped the slack around the back cleat. Eventually we could see a bright white spot in the deep blue water. A big tuna had its fighting colors; he was not coming on board without a fight. Until today, we could carry the fish out of the water by the line and place the fish in the compartment for the liferaft; there is an extra 10 centimeters which is typically just enough for the fish to slide in. We clearly needed a revised plan for such a big tuna. Its waist line was too wide; it wouldn’t fit. We jammed it again the liferaft with the fishing gaffe and tried to hold it in place. We reached for the vodka but it wasn’t working: the fish wouldn’t open its gills and have a last drink. What happened next is rated G for gore so I’ll be beeping it. We took the diving knife and it in its . Lots of was gushing from its . But the fish was still struggling. In order to shorten its misery, we started to its but it wasn’t enough; the knife couldn’t its . The fish started to intensely shake for a long minute then quiet down. It gasped for air one last time and gave up. Followed a session of fish fillet-ing on the swimstep as the boat is heeling with good gusts of winds. We think it weighed about 50lb / 22 kilos but you know those fishing stories. We measured 90 cm of length.
The afternoon was quiet, some clouds in the otherwise clear skies. Around 4pm we started to slow down. We took down the main and left the gib. But we didn’t like that configuration where Ubi heels a lot and the rudder is engaged a bit windward which slows down the boat. In order to get more speed, we need to give more gib which increases the heeling. So we decided to instead put the main back up and set the trisail (trinquette in French). After some efforts, this is our working configuration: a 60% reefed trinquette and a double reefed main in 25 to 30 knots of wind. We are going between 4 and 7 knots depending on the gusts. As soon as I am done typing, I’ll reef the trisail a bit more and ease the main sheet to slow down. The boat is shaken as it slams against the waves. Everyone else is already lying down in random spots in the boat, weathering this little storm. It is the toughest conditions we had in a long time. We can’t wait to arrive tomorrow but there is the night to deal with before that.
Position: 15 25S 144 35W
Bearing: 204 magnetic
Speed: 7.5 nautical miles
Moving average: 5.8 nautical miles
Distance to destination: 52.8 nautical miles
Wind speed: 31 knots
Finally in Kauehi – June 15th 2019 – Tuamotus (part 1)
Sat Jun 15 2019
I finished the post yesterday as we were about to reef the trysail. And it was needed!! I could barely go in the cockpit to transcribe the numbers because the salt water sprays covered the touchscreen of my phone and wouldn’t latch the touch of my fingers. The night is a bit blurry as we didn’t sleep much as I’ll try to retrace it as faithfully as I can. The wind continued to build up and was averaging 30 knots. We decided to stay outside and see the elements raging around us. We felt small and vulnerable. Not much else we could do: we needed to wait and see, be patient, wait it out and be ready to react when needed. It is in these situations that we must remember Ubi is the strongest of all of us, and that we can find shelter with her. She seems to become alive and stretch her sails as wings when the winds blow above 20 knots, as a horse freed from any rope running in the fields reconnecting with its animal instincts. 7 to 8 on Beaufort scale might be Ubi’s playing field, it was definitely not ours. The boat was jumping and crashing on breaking waves. Glasses and containers were clinking in the cupboard; all that wasn’t secured started to move, fall down, or bounce. We were trying to identify each new noise to figure out whether or not it was something to be worried about or worst needed us to venture outside on deck. The jerrycans of water we stored on deck were naively kept by a bungee cord; we had to go and set them back in position multiple times. The diesel jerrycans on the other side of the mast were held a bit better and were not so much a concern. They were all moving and jumping on deck after these fractions of second of near-0 gravity. Our fear level increased when the floorboard supporting the saloon table jumped out and fell on the starboard bench of the saloon where Noah was sleeping. He didn’t get seriously hurt; we got lucky. We sent him in his bed and sent Naomie who was sleeping on the windward side in hers. There was not much we could do for Ubi. We gradually reduced the trysail area and ended up only with the mainsail wide open, under trimmed. We came back inside and decided to take 25 minutes cat naps to check our progression. Nath slept on the floorboard near the stove, on the cockpit cushions, and I slept where Noah was lying down earlier so I could hold the table in place, or at least reduce its span, when the boat excessively heeled. We sometime slept the whole duration, but most times we woke up earlier wondering whether we overslept. The main concern is that we were in spitting range of two atolls. Our course drove us between them, until we could round the South end of Kauehi. The autopilot was again the star of the night. We were sporadically going out in the cockpit to check the boat speed, note down the wind speed and the deviation from our planned course, typically 1.8 nautical miles to the East. We could also check the speed and trajectory on Navionics from inside. The sleeping conditions were not optimal of course, and wearing our foul whether gear under our inflatable PFD (personal floatation device) did not increase our comfort. The worst is probably the metal hooks to adjust the PDF that are ergonomically positioned to remind you where your rib cage is. In second place came sleeping in clothes damped with sea water. Looking for optimism, I kept thinking we were lucky that we were sailing in warm waters: I indeed had my foul weather jacket, but I only wore my underwear for the rest, the perfect outfit for these latitudes.
At 4am, we reached the last turn before the pass. We were two hours too early and we couldn’t reduce more the sails. So we decided to continue straight in our current tack and after two hours turn towards the pass. That decision paid off. We were nicely positioned when the sun came up. We saw Maple, coming out of seemingly nowhere, right on time for the pass crossing. They let us go first. We removed the main sail, and put the engine on. The wind was coming at 30 to 40 degrees off the pass. The wind was not calming down, quite the opposite: a squall was coming every ten minutes bringing stronger winds. It was a bit like landing with a side wind: we had to crab into the wind in order to progress toward the pass with the right angle. We radioed a Kiwi boat that we saw leaving the atoll through the pass via its AIS signal: in the pass, it sped up from 4 knots to 7 to 11! They shared their experience in the atoll and wished us good luck. They confirmed standing waves on the port side of the pass. We were progressing slowly. Ten minutes before reaching the action, we sent the kids in their cabins: we thought it would be the safest place for them in case we ran into difficulties.
Finally in Kauehi – June 15th 2019 – Tuamotus (part 2)
Sat Jun 15 2019
[continued from part 1]
At 2000 RPM, we were moving 1.5 knots, fighting some residual current and side wind. We pointed between the red light signaling the port side of the pass and the reef on the other side, keeping a good eye for the depth. In less than 1/2 miles, it came up from 2000 meters to 14 ! We were entering a crater at the very top of the high volcano peak. We resumed breathing when we cleared the light and the GPS speed increased.
We turned into the wind in order to reach the South anchorage: it was recommended in the guides and also seemed to be the faster path towards anchoring and therefore sleeping. But the 30+ knots wind and the wind waves decided otherwise, we could barely move forward with 1 knot of speed with 2200 RPM. We decided to change plans and cross the atoll towards the anchorage near the village. We put the jib back up, half reefed, and we were zooming at 6 knots for the 7 miles crossing. We tried to change tack to go the South anchorage but we definitely gave up when the wind angle towards was forcing us to back track towards the pass. We didn’t want to spend the engine hours, so we finished our track to the village and anchored near three sailboats, in 10 meters of turquoise water. 50 meters of chain later, we turned off the engine and looked around. We put the satellite phone out to send our position and a quick note that we made it alive. Outside the boat, we could see at the horizon the end of the atoll: some palm trees at a distance with a huge body of water in between. Inside the boat, it looked like a warzone: cushions here and there, clothes, most of what was on the chart table, the ditch bag, etc. were covering the floor. We started by a good swim. Seeing the kids waiting for us to dip was worth the pain and the fears of the trip: tanned kids in front of a heavenly turquoise water straight for glossy boating magazine: this is what boating looks like, sometimes. I didn’t have the stamina to go and see how strongly the anchor was hooked. We came back on board, took a warm shower thanks to the few hours of motoring, and had a quick lunch (fresh tunas steaks grilled in butter and garlic, with pastas from yesterday). It was then time for the best time of the day: the nap. The adults fell asleep like computers, while the kids were working on their crafts for Nath’s soon coming birthday. After what seemed like a day worth of sleeping, I emerged in a quite boat, surprised to not feel the jerks of the boat nor the sound of the water rushing along the hull. No sound, that is typically not a good sign. I saw Nath in the cockpit outside and the kids door closed shut with the power cable peeking through. We tidied a little the boat up and then savored two grapefruits in the cockpit admiring the view once more.
Frequent squalls keep little drizzle coming so we went inside to play a game of rikiki. After that, it was time for journal while the kids wrote their diary. Nath prepared sushi rolls, which were judged by the kids as the best she ever made. Now the crew is finishing cleaning the dishes, dreaming of a day in a house with a dishwasher. Teeth are brushed, kids are in pajamas; time for a good action movie.
Total distance: 553 nautical miles
Total time: 4 days 0 hours
Moving average: 5.8 knots
Top GPS speed: 12.1 knots
Top wind speed observed: 43 knots
Max wave height: 16 to 20 feet
No sun day – June 16th 2019 – Kauehi, Tuamotus archipelago
Sun Jun 16 2019
For the first time since we installed solar panels on Ubi, we are going to bed without having fully charged our batteries. From all the places we’ve been so far, I would have not guessed it would happen here in Polynesia. I could see this scenario in Astoria OR, in San Diego CA (we had some cloudy days), or somewhere in Washington state, but no. It happened in this place synonymous with sunny days on white sand beaches.
The day was a series of rainy squalls interrupted by a some dry overcast skies. We looked at the village from the distance of the boat but didn’t venture to shore yet. We worked in the boat, cleaning up the galley and drying the bilges. We repaired a repair on our dinghy that didn’t hold well. It needed some gluing and we gambled on a 10min of no rain in the afternoon to let the glue set. We cleaned the cockpit with the kids. We baked a banana chocolate chip cake/bread. We attached the rope ladder on the spinnaker halyard, through the whisker pole, so the kids could climb on it from the water and jumped from a height they were comfortable with. The water is warmer than the air today and the wind was worsening the cold sensation so the swim time was short, but definitely a highlight of the day. Nath snorkeled for a while, scouting good spots for tomorrow’s swim.
Two of our meals were off of the tuna we caught.
The lowlight of the day came from far far away, still in this galaxy, from Bretagne France. Our uncle Frédéric left for his circumnavigation on his custom sailboat. He took three years to design every aspect of his boat and supervised any detail during the construction. It is his third attempt for the voyage of a lifetime. The first time, his faithful dog was so seasick we had to forfeit. The second time he got sick at Gibraltar and came back to France with the intention to sell the boat and move on. He changed his mind and pushed through for this third tentative, single-handing his ship. He heard from the Belgian gossip channel that he was too seasick around Belle-Ile, only a few hours away from his departure point, Trinité-sur-mer. We cannot even imagine the level of depression, disgust and dispair he must go through right now. Future will tell what he will do next but he will definitely need some time to recover. We feel especially for him. We were hoping to welcome him in the Marquesas in 2020, after his crossing of the Pacific via Patagonia. It seems unfair we can do it and experience this lifestyle and he can’t even through all his work and efforts. In some ways, he is much more experienced and prepared than we are; he has studied the best navigation routes; the best places to haul out and repair; the best tricks for aluminum boats; etc. He helped us with the weather forecast and routing during our crossing and we were excited to return the favor and send him our forecast for his passages. Our thoughts go to him and we’d like to find a way to cheer him up in some small but meaningful way. We are unfortunately far away and with very limiting communication means. Tonight we wish we were in Europe for him and we could jump on a train to see him.
Kauehi village – June 17th 2019 – Kauehi, Tuamotus archipelago
Mon Jun 17 2019
I woke up early this morning hearing Nath softly talking. She was in the cockpit. Under the full moon, we could see very clearly outside. The sun was preparing its entrance, with a bright spot of light right above the village. Nath was talking on the phone. Apparently she had a very good signal, maybe because no one else on the island was up yet to use the bandwidth. I went back to bed until I heard the sound of bells. It wasn’t like announcing a precise time, it sounded like they were calling for attention or help, like I guess when there was a fire in older times or when a city was under attack. I saw no fire and no pirate ships, so I went back to bed. And ten minutes later, the bells started again. “OK I got it, I still don’t know why they are making this noise but I can’t stay in bed”. Maybe it was the call for school.
The kids got slowly up and we prepared hot water for coffee and hot chocolate milk. The fridge had been shut off since last night and we were waiting for the sun to shine before powering the boat back up. No more battery left in the computers, the ipad or the kids’ phone. We watched the consumption meter while sipping our coffee. We cheered when we could read 0.1: we were producing 0.1 Ampere and storing it in the batteries. Little by little the number grew and we eventually reached 2 Amp. It was not enough to get the fridge going but it felt good to know that we were on the right trend. The sky was still cloudy but not overcast so we were very hopeful we will get a good day of sun. Following the example of the sun, lazily getting up, we decided to go back to bed. We read a bit and slept some more. The kids used that time to prepare for Nath’s birthday.
When we were done with sleeping, we put the dinghy in the water and got it ready. Naomie had to put her shoes on, which appears to be a struggle after a few days at sea wearing essentially her pajamas all day, and definitely no shoes. Banking on a sunny day, we left lots of electronics to charge. We stopped by the boat anchored right next to us, to our port side. It is a steel boat registered in Belfast called Karma, we talked a bit and they said they were surprised too by the inclement weather. We talked shop a bit (how good was the holding, how many watts their wind generator was producing, whether or not we could refill our gas tanks in the village, etc.). We headed towards the village and then decided to swing by the other Ovni anchored there. It is a 395 from 2005 under an Austrian flag. A nice 50ish-old couple was on board. They offered to help refill our gas tanks as they have the right hose to do so. We went to the village. The approach is done by pointing towards the church and traversing a pallet of blue tones going from navy blue to turquoise and finishing in perfectly transparent water just deep enough for the propeller. We touched land and drug the dinghy a few feet above water line. We looked back towards this lagoon we crossed and we could already picture us kiting there. This is a nice place.
Kauehi village – June 17th 2019 – Kauehi, Tuamotus archipelago (part 2)
Mon Jun 17 2019
We walked in the village and said bonjour to a few people passing by. It was around noon and kids seemed just out of school heading back home on foot with their backpack. We turned right at the big red and white church and saw on the crossroad a flat building with a coca-cola banner.
There was probably one of the three shops. The owner is the maire of the village; he used to be a cop in Tahiti and is retired now here, managing his shop and probably still maintaining peace in the very peaceful place. Interestingly his name, Taiahau, tattooed on his arm, means peace keeper in –I am guessing– Tahitian and he then later became a cop… nature or nurture? We talked for a little while and we ended up talking about butane. He gave us a fitting for the big bottles we can find everywhere here in the hope that we would be able to switch to butane for this part of the world. We are not sure yet but it seems the regular household butane tanks are a few centimeters too big to sit in our gas locker. Tomorrow, we’ll try to get an empty one to see if there is a way to fit it sideway in the locker. We wanted to buy some lollipops for the kids but only had a big bill. Taiahau said we could pay him tomorrow. Very low key here…
We then walked to the close-by lagoon Northwest of the village in a reconnaissance mission for future kiteboarding. The beach looked fine and a bit sheltered by the forest of coconut trees, waist-deep water, no chop.
Let’s see what tomorrow will bring for wind.
We walked five more minutes to the end of the village, on the same street. The beach on that side opens to the atoll. We could see Ubi nearby in its turquoise cocoon. The kids wanted to see the ocean side hoping they could bring their body boards next time. We found a crossroad going in the right direction. It turned into a dirt road made with very fine grained white sand or ground coral. The path was leading to the South anchorage. We turned left in a clearing between coconut trees towards the sound of big crashing waves. We walked across a field of dried up coral and coconut palms and ended up on the side facing the ocean, where we came from two days ago. Big waves were forming at a distance and came crashing onto the shallow reef line bordering the atoll. No beach to speak off, just a sea of coral transforming into flooded tide pools and then we could just imagine the depth, likely a sharp decline towards the ocean floor, a few thousand meters down. A strong reminder that we are on the very top of a mountain that happens to be at sea level. We didn’t stay long there as we got detected by a hoard of local mosquitoes that seemed glad to have us for lunch… We came back to the dinghy and back to the boat. We swam first and then ate a belated lunch around 2:30pm (of course we ate some tuna).
Maple motored over and dropped their anchor right by us and then came on a kayak to chat with us. We didn’t talk with them since Nuku Hiva and we had to compare our notes on the crossing and mostly on the last day and night at sea. They invited us over for a small potluck in the evening for their daughter’s boatschooled graduation. Knot Home anchored on the other side of us and they joined the party. Noah made some of his now famous lemonade and we brought (wait for it) some tuna. We had a great time on their catamaran and the kids (7 of them) went to the trampoline in the front and played there all evening. We talked about the crossing and we all agreed it was the worst conditions in our cumulative experience. We talked about what we could have done differently and what we learnt and then we drifted to talk about other things including the weather…
We learned that Dale on Knot Home also has a few kites on boards so we are definitely going to explore that option tomorrow. The winds are supposed to shift a bit; hopefully they will become less gusty and less strong. Lots of snorkeling to be done here, even close by the boat. During our swim, we saw that the anchor has nicely set in the white sand. I dove to touch it to make sure I could get to it at that depth if ever it got stuck for whatever reason. We followed the chain from the anchor to the boat and it is sitting nicely in the bottom in a straight line (the wind has been blowing so the chain has been stretched out). The chain is touching a coral head mid way at around 30 meters of chain but it should not be a problem for our holding nor for retrieving the anchor when we leave. The kids will likely play more with the other kids and invite them over on our rope ladder.
Today our kids went all the way to the top of the ladder and touched the whisker pole before letting themselves fall back in the water. It is –I would say– 4 meters high. I am sure they will have fun for a while with it.
The night is dark tonight as the noon although full hides behind dark clouds. The wind gusts up from time to time before the rain hits. But we feel totally safe here, at anchor. Our Norwegian friends on Vega are doing the crossing now so we hope they are not getting too bad conditions. We saw lightning towards the South this evening, hopefully not for them.
Time to log off and sleep. Good night/day.
Another rainy day – June 18th 2019 – Kauehi, Tuamotus archipeloago
Tue Jun 18 2019
For the second time, we are going to bed with our batteries not full. Today was another rainy day where the rain showers regularly came in, leaving no chance for the sun to pierce the cloud cover. At best, we generated 4 Amps but that is not enough to offset the fridge and the other equipment that need power.
A goal today was to make progress on the butane situation. We are not desperate as SV Maple offered us to lend us a bottle if we run short. We measured the height of gas tank in French Polynesia and it is a touch too big for our locker. So we thought we could try and tilt one and have it stored tilted. We took the dinghy to the village when the rain was taking a break to see Taiahau, the retired police man converted into a store owner on the atoll. We gave him grapefruits, paid for the lollypops the kids got yesterday and bought some more provisions. I explained what I wanted to try and he accepted to let me take an empty bottle to see whether it can fit. Back on the boat, we removed all items in that locker, including the bottom protection so the steel tanks are not in contact with the aluminum of our hull, weaker on the galvanic scale. With an empty locker, the bottle top barely fits when at a specific angle and then the tank can slide into place. The lid of the locker can be closed, so it fits. But it is not pretty. We’d need to pad the tank to prevent damage to it or the boat and the tank would be tilted (probably not a big issue). Taiahau gave us a fitting for this type of tanks so we could temporarily connect the tank to the gas line, bypassing the safety solenoid, until we find a good fitting in Pape’ete. We are taking another night to decide if we are going to proceed with this option and what we’d do with the steel American propane tank.
We invited the other boats over so the kids could try out the rope ladder. The kids were playing in the water and the adults stayed protected from the rain under the bimini of the cockpit. We all despaired for a sunnier day but it did not come. The only time we saw the sun was when it was setting in a beautiful display of red shades in the cloudy horizon. Noah served his lemonade and Naomie her grapefruit/banana/line fruit mix. The kids got hot cocoa to warm up from the relatively cold day (still the water in 28.5 degrees C, but we are not used to that anymore; I got tempted to put on a t-shirt but gave up). The friends left for a short ride to their boat, and we prepared crepes, as it is our tradition to eat crepes around the night of full moon. The kids are finishing up the dishes while the adults are already thinking about their pillows.
We found that a leak was soaking the floorboard on the starboard side. We thought it could be the salty water foot pump for the sink, but our suspicions are now around the cooling pump of the fridge. Due to the low level of our batteries, the fridge is on vacation for the night so we couldn’t really confirm the source of the leak. Tomorrow, we’ll look into that. Let’s hope the sun will join the party.
Kids’ paradise day – June 19th 2019 – Kauehi, Tuamotus archipelago
Wed Jun 19 2019
The early morning brought a beautiful sunrise, with some clouds for décor. I woke up before 7am and decide to fly the drone to capture a nice sunny morning on tape. We haven’t looked at the footage yet, but we can bet that some of its ten minutes will be in the video episode about the Tuamotus. We sent a picture on Instagram as a teaser.
When we heard the plane, we had already finished breakfast and we knew we should head towards the village. With one fight service per week, the village is getting on Wednesday baguettes from Tahiti and we wanted some. The other boats were ready faster than us so we asked them to pick four for us. I came a bit later with an empty jerrycan for laundry water and the empty butane tank. Taiahau wasn’t at the store; he is on a business trip in Tahiti, as maire. His wife is keeping the store going. We talked a bit and she knew about our gas situation. I took the last tank of the atoll and her son delivered it by bicycle to the dock near the beach I anchored the dinghy. I asked her if I could fill up my jerrycan and she offered to use her rain water. As I was coming back to Ubi, another boat was anchoring just at our stern. I left the tank and jerrycan on the boat and went to talk with them. They are a team of two men, an older one probably the owner and a younger one who I think he crew. They came from the Marquises but not from Nuku Hiva; their last stop in the Marquises was the same island S/V Marisa wanted to go to. They had an easy passage and they didn’t even bother checking the tides before taking the pass: it was nice and easy although some expected current; overall very different conditions than what we experienced.
We ate baguettes for lunch: they are not the best we had, but I guess they are pretty good for airplane food.
We had a afternoon session in the lagoon next to the anchorage where the kids tried waterskiing, being dragged on a bodyboard and being dragged standing up on the stand-up-paddle. The water was waist-deep for the most part and very clear. Some shallower spots were a bit concerning for the propellers, especially some of the corals heads popping out randomly. Noah did very good on the waterskis but I didn’t see him as I was getting the stand-up-paddle from the boat at that time. In the dinghy, the kids saw a good size shark in this shallow area. According to their knowledge (they devoured multiple BBC documentaries on sharks), they identified it as a lemon shark and stated that it should not be a danger for swimmers. Then they jumped in the water and didn’t seemed alarmed by the sighting. I still stood with both feet on the air bladders of the dinghy (for extra height) to see if our yellow fried was not tempted by a kid. I didn’t spot it anymore but it is yet another shark on the list of sharks we’ve seen so far. I think all kids had a lot of fun and we came back to the boat when they were getting too cold.
Repair-wise, the day was positive too. We confirmed that the leak we had was from the head of the cooling pump of the fridge. We removed it from its typical slot in order to be able to observe it running and see that it was leaking near the axle, close to the electric part, where there should not be any water. After the waterski, we took it apart but didn’t see any crack in the membrane. It definitely needed a good clean up as we found some barnacles happily living in there. We lubricated the bearings and added silicon grease to improve the water resistance. We re-assembled it and plugged it back on over a large Tupperware to detect any residual leak. I’ll need to check later today and I’ll report back tomorrow on the result of our work. Another maintenance work was unclogging the sink of the front head. We had to dive to figure out that a large barnacle took residence in the through-hull. We took some time to gently remove a bit of the thin layer of algae that seemed unbothered by our brand new antifouling paint. Two raymora fish seems to like our hull. I would happily give them rent for some bottom maintenance but they seem to prefer the status of squatters. As we are living rent free as well, who are we to judge…
Nathalie did a big load of laundry. The sun not only charged all our batteries but it also quickly dried our clothes. The nice 10 to 15 knots wind helped too. It seems to be calling us, so we decided to get the kiteboard gear ready. This first step is generally enough to quiet down any wind (actually we should try this try in the next stormy passage we’ll experience). But the wind did not shy away. The plan was to play with the kids and help them waterski and them send them on Knot Home for a board game, while some adults trying a different type of board game… But the wind seems a bit too low for kiting in the later afternoon so we decide to take it slowly and not increase our frustration by going to the beach with all our gear, get ready and then be forced to admit that the wind is not complying. Tomorrow might be the day.
Water day – June 20th 2019 – Kauehi, Tuamotus archipelago
Thu Jun 20 2019
We woke up early this morning and looked at a large cumulonimbus towering above the sunrise. The rain shower was visible in through the new light, making for a full palette of colors. I wished we had an easy way to share pictures on these posts as a picture is really worth a thousand words, and this page limits the number of words I can write per post. We completed the last baguettes, which was grilled with butter, with some oatmeal. We inspected the Tupperware bowl under the fridge pump and it had some water in it: the leak is not fixed. When we dove later in the day we saw air bubbles coming out from a through-hull. Not only the pump is leaking water in the boat, it is sending air in the hose. We’ll need to deal with that at some point, but the fridge is still working so it is not paramount we fix it now.
For school, we tried something new. We have a reference book about sailing from this major sailing school in France, les Glénans. Their book, which is commonly referred to as the bible des Glénans covers many aspects of what we are living now. So we figured we could read this book together to learn more about this subject, but also learn the proper sailing terms in French, learn about the weather patterns, maps, etc. So we sat around the table and started looking at the titles of the different chapters to have an idea of what is covered and what is coming. And we started at the first chapter about the sea. The start was rocky as the first paragraphs are a bit poetic and use fancy words, and that was close to discourage the kids (and us). We continued and skipped as necessary and read about the landscape and then how to transfer the observation of the landscape into a map. We tried to figure out how maps where drawn before the advent of GPS. And we took out of the ditch bad a special compass we use to precisely determine the direction of a landmark. We worked through an example and the kids took their measurements with the compass to draw a map of this part of the atoll. There are many concepts to grasp in order to really understand, but I think this common book reading exercise can give them an intuition of some of the concepts (e.g. how does a sailboat sail into the wind?) and be a catalyst for other questions they might have about our experience. We’ll see over the coming weeks how this experiment is panning out.
After lunch, we decided to re-anchor the boat. I dove in the morning to see how the chain was laid out with the new wind direction we are under. And it wasn’t good. The chain was making a straight line from the pulpit to the boomies, 10 meters below. Then the chain was taking a hard right turn towards the anchor. We were caught on a boomy and we decided to free ourselves from it. With the engine on, the windlass brought the boat above the boomy but we could not set the chain free. Even worst, we wrapped it around the boomy in our effort to make it better. Nath stayed at the helm while I dove to see the issue. I saw the wrap and its direction. Back at the surface, I directed Nath to be directly above the problem and then I dove all the way down to the ground to manually unwrap the chain. I never dove this deep and for this long. But I am certainly glad it worked. We were able to bring in another 20 meters of chain but the anchor caught something else. As the wind was fighting our efforts, the anchor drug when there wasn’t enough chain anymore and it caught in what seemed to be the old ground lines used for the pearl farms. I dove again, this time with a serrated knife. But before cutting our way out, we tried to bring down some chain and manually free the anchor. It was only a few meters below the surface so that exercise seemed much easier. We got free and then we anchored right behind S/V Maple. This new spot is deeper, hopefully our anchor will not be stuck down here.
After that fun, we had the plan to go kiteboarding with Dale of S/V Knot Home. We loaded all our gear in his dinghy and zoomed to a nearby beach. The approach to the beach was traitorous: lots of coral heads were lurking just below the water line. We stepped out of the dinghy 30 meters from the beach to walk it closer to dry sand. But we realized that this area was not only bad for dinghy, it would have been really bad for a kiter being dragged in the water. So we decided to explore another area, further away. After reaching that stretch of beach, we saw that it was the same configuration of coral heads making the access to the beach rather tricky. We anyway set our first kite up: our 12 squared meters. Once ready, the wind felt too weak. To confirm, we launched the kite. It flew but did not provide enough power to perform a pleasant upwind tack. So we put it down and prepared Dale’s 16 m2. During the inflation, one of the nipples tore out of the main bladder. That was the end of our kite session. We philosophically remembered that kiting is most of the time setting and cleaning up gear and unfortunately not so much kiting. But all is not lost. We are planning to sail to Fakarava tomorrow. It is one of the largest atoll of the archipelago and the third largest in the world. We’ll talk over the coming days of what it has to offer but let me tell you already that there is a kite school, and therefore there must be a good beach to launch from. And big winds are coming.
Back on Ubi, we prepared the boat for tomorrow’s early departure. Time to go to bed, after a much needed shower to rinse off from all the salt accumulated during the swim sessions of the day.
Another no sun day – June 21st 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Fri Jun 21 2019
It seems the sun partied a bit too much the solstice as it didn’t show up for work today. We left anchor early morning around 5:20am. The day was about to break. We sighed of relief when we saw the anchor back on the boat without having to dive. We motor sailed with the gib all the way to the pass. The timing was good, the currents were light and the conditions were very good. Nathalie was at the helm and did a great job keeping the boat safe and under control. Once out of the pass, we pointed to Fakarava, 35 miles Southwest. A strong wind provided us enough speed to shut off the engine and we had a first leg at around 7 knots. S/V Maple was in front and S/V Knot Home were in the back. The sail configuration gave us an advantage over Maple so we slowly gained on then. Once we were at about 100m from them we started to veer upwind to give them enough breathing room. We overtook them after some minutes and sailed in pole position, until the wind died. We were down to 2 knots. Maple shook their reefs off of the main and we didn’t. It is easy to be optimistic when in fact you are lazy: the wind will pickup, I thought. But when we came back to our level, I was considering our options. Then I saw them firing up their engine and I followed suit. We motored for a little while. Then the wind came back witj force. We were glad the main was still double-reefed. And we put all the gib out. The wind picked up some more and before the next big gust we reefed the gib. We were still cruising very fast and this right until the large pass of Fakarava. It is about 1 kilometer wide and deep enough to not cause a concern… in good conditions. Our timing was excellent once more and we passed without any trouble. We got an unnecessary confirmation that it was the right time to pass: the supply ship was crossing at the same time. It called us on the radio: he said « green green ».
It wasn’t clear at first for us but it meant we should keep our course and pass each other starboard to starboard. We confirmed and continued straight. Once in the atoll, we motor sailed for another hour until we anchored. We planned to anchor next to S/V Vega, which got in this atoll before us, but we saw this other boat pull anchor as we were by them and we simply took their spot. The anchor dragged some, so I am concerned that there is more coral fun to be had in the coming days but that will be for later. As soon as the boat was stopped, the kids got invited on Vega and they were gone. I used my free time to wash the dishes of the day and disassemble the fridge pump. I better understand how it is working now and where it could leak. So I applied more silicone grease to lubricate and I put some silicone where I thought the leak could come from. I plugged it back in but didn’t turned it on as it was time for a little tour of the local shop. There are more options than in Kauehi. We bought some stuff to make a pasta dinner but on the way back we got invited to have dinner on Vega. We made a large pasta dish with what we bought and some of their provisions. We brought a red wine from California that we bought in San Diego (which was well received by our Norwegian friends, who have been under a diet of Bordeau in a box for a bit too long, from their own account). We spent a nice time with them as the kids where watching a movie.
The rain did stop from time to time, but the sun was not there for the whole day. Our batteries did not recharge fully today although we had a few engine hours. It seems our alternator feeding the house battery has an issue and needs some attention. It seems that the sun might be on strike tomorrow too. Thankfully the fridge is near empty and its pump in not in service so we shouldn’t use much energy tomorrow. A wind turbine starts to make sense to us Maybe one day we’ll get one.
Until then, we will have some days with less energy and that is fine.
Fakarava channel day – June 22nd 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Sat Jun 22 2019
We were happy to wake up at the same location as where we anchored yesterday. The anchor dragged when we came in and we were not quite sure that it would hold well. We did not dive to check it out; I guess we are getting comfortable. It is true that we put lots of chain and the wind was not forecasted to be high during the night.
The boys and I went to get the baguettes. We also picked some milk and a few pasteries. We had a nice breakfast in the cockpit and ate two of our four baguettes. We were looking at the dinghies zooming by and the boats preparing to raise anchor. In the morning there was a mass exodus. All the boats around us, except one, left for a south anchorage. As the atoll is very big, there are a lot of miles to cover in order to reach the other side, hence the early start. We were thinking to stay a bit in the anchorage but there was good wind to go South and tomorrow the wind will come from the South. So we opted for a nice downwind sail. After a round of provisions, we raised the anchor without much trouble. Noah was the one in control of the windlass and I was dealing with the chain locker. He did well; it is intimidating for us to let them take this responsibility as we had so many issues with the windlass since Martinique. But it is a strong piece of equipment: it should resist some mistakes the kids will inevitably make.
The atoll is massive and much of it has not been mapped with respect to depth and coral heads. There are two channels with more information but there are still corals and shoals in the channels. So we need to keep a good watch for the change in the color of the water. We put the head sail on the whisker pole, and later we raised the main, still with its two reefs from yesterday. We were doing between 4 and 5 knots and having a very comfortable and sunny run. But the channel is about 30 miles long so we got the engine on to help us get there before the sunset as we needed to see well enough to not run aground. With the engine at 2000 RPM and the sails in wing-on-wing configuration, we were moving at about 7 knots. A few times, we changed course a bit late to avoid a light blue zone. It is not clear that we would have hit our keel but when in doubt, no doubt. We reached the anchorage and lots of boats were already there. And lots of them that we know: Maple and Knot Home but also Free Spirit, Jolly Dogs, Bruno’s Girl, Zatara and others we met in Nuku Hiva. This time we dove the anchor and saw the anchor nicely caught in the sandy bottom. The chain was bending its path on a coral head. I dove down to place the chain on the other side of the head so that we have less chance of getting pinned on it when the wind shifts. Thankfully we anchored in 8 meters so I could get done there without too much troubles. Two meters makes a lot of difference. Two raymoras were hanging out close to the boat. They are not shy and they came around us while we were swimming. The other boats told us later that they come if you let them and they will start gently sucking on you, as if you were a small shark or a tiny whale. You can gently brush them off but it is unusual for a fish to not be afraid and even to actively seek contact. We had a beautiful sunset that closed a day full of sun, contrary to what was forecasted. Our batteries have recharged well thanks to the sun and the engine. We had a hot shower after our swim also thanks to the engine. I am finishing this post while the kids finish washing the dishes. Then we will play a game of rikiki before falling asleep thinking about what we will do and discover here in the coming days.
Kite day – June 23rd 2018 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Sun Jun 23 2019
As forecasted the wind changed directions twice during the night so when we woke up this morning we got up to see the chain and anchor. It was wrapped 180 degrees around a coral head and Ubi was practically right above its anchor. I dove to try and free it up but there was too much tension and I have to admit that the raymora was very interested in me and I wasn’t ready for more proximity with it. So we freed the anchor with the engine and from the safety of our deck. It went easily and it launched the trend in the anchorage. Many other boats dove their anchor and then reset their anchor. I went with Bastien on the dinghy to check out where would be a good spot to launch our kite and we found this nice strip of sand. We also saw a manta ray in the shallow water. The visibility here is impressive. This is a great sign for all the snorkeling we’ll have here. On our way back, we saw a dinghy with a kite school sign. We stopped to talk to the guy, who is the local kite instructor Adrien. We talked a bit about spot and conditions. He mentioned that he teaches kids starting at 6 years old. Food for thought. We came back to the boat and spent the morning playing chess and lego, working on video 22 and preparing the kite gear. We had a fresh bread for lunch with some salad and a carrot, with cheese and a saussisson. Aline, the girlfriend of the kite instructor, came to talk to us about kitesurfing lessons for kids. And we signed the kids up for a group lessons tomorrow: the three of them with Adrien for two hours. We all can barely wait. Aline is also doing free-diving lessons and we heard amazing results for some of her students, including a kiwi who managed to hold his breath for 4 and a half minutes after the first lesson. And another session is devoted to speargun fishing and finding non toxic fish in the anchorage. Another food for thoughts. We met a few new kids boats. On a kiwi cat, there are two boys age 11 and 9, and they took our boys sailing on their race dériveur. And later, Bastien and Naomie had a sail on a sailable dinghy, a Walker Bay. When we dream about having a bigger boat, such water toys are part of these dreams. We dinghied out to the kite spot in the afternoon. The kids started to play right away finding hermit crabs and other shells. We set our 10m up and were ready to launch. But the bar and lines didn’t feel right. After some thoughts and careful examination, we realized that we didn’t pack up the kite properly the last time we used it (2 years ago?) and some extensions were not attached at the right place. Once corrected, we launched the kite and I went out. Very nice conditions with warm (27.5 C) water, shallow and sandy bottom, clean wind. I did a few tacks and then gave the kite to Nath as it was a bit too light for me. The wind was supposed to pick up so I could have another turn. Nath took off downwind to avoid another liter and a sandbar but she went too far downwind so she couldn’t get it back upwind to the beach. She signaled me later that it was time to pick her up. I took the dinghy and left the kids on the beach with the other parents. After catching up to her, i took some movies of her in action but her kite is much faster than our outboard so I wouldn’t expect great footage. We figured out that we could exchange places if she could stand in the water so she bodydragged a bit to find a shallower spot but the chop made it pretty tiring. So we ended up removing the chicken loop and let the kite depower via the safety release. Nathalie jumped on the dinghy and we pulled the kite to the boat, untied the lines and dragged the kite but the leach got undone and we lost the kite for a few moments when it was freely rolling atop the lagoon water. We eventually deflated it and rode back to shore. We had drifted quite a lot and it took us some time to come back on our not-so-powerful dinghy. It started to rain and we figured everyone had left the beach and one boat would have taken our kids in. Sure enough S/V Maple had them and they were treated with hot chocolate. We came back to the beach to get the rest of our gear I just left for the dinghy rescue. We cleaned up the kite and the bar and came to Maple to get our kids. They gave us a hot cup of tea and we ended up talking for the rest of the afternoon while the kids were playing. We had to leave to let them have dinner and we ate on our boat. It is windy and gray tonight so we might put out a bit more chain for safety. We also need to put our kite gear out of the wind so we won’t lose anything in the gusts. We are all tired tonight and very excited about all the potential of fun we’ll have here !!
Family kite day – June 24th 2018 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Mon Jun 24 2019
The rain and the wind cleared up before the morning. We had a nice sunrise with blue skies with still some rain clouds as if the man up there wasn’t sure yet how he’d wanted the day to go: rain or sunshine. Sunshine it was. After the occasional drizzle, the sun was here all day. The batteries and us were very happy about it. We could see white caps around the sandbars, indicating strong wind for the kite lesson. After piano lessons, we continued our exploration of the bible of Glenans: we talked about the history of maps and how precise timing is crucial for celestial positioning. We had an early lunch to be on time at S/V Pizza, the catamaran of the kiteboard instructors. The kids were bundled up in their wetsuits and lifejackets. They were excited to start and a bit anxious too. They saw us jump and crash and have fun and be frustrated in the past with kites and it seems it was bubbling up for them too. We dropped them off at the instructors’ boat, they jumped on their large dinghy which already had a few kite bags in it. Nath and I left them wishing them luck and we headed towards the kite beach. The wind was a bit stronger than yesterday. We set up the 10m and I had a great hour of kiting. Some nice jumps, a lot of long tacks, a few black rays swimming in shallow water. I took a long ride to see the kids on the dinghy. I stayed at a distance as I didn’t want to disturb their session. I saw Bastien dragged behind a kite flown high. I hoped there was an instructor holding him in the water. I went back to the kite beach and attempted some jumps in front of Nath. Perfect conditions all along. Maybe I am getting old, or I am out of shape but after 1 hour or so I was tired and I needed a break. I put the kite down and as there was not enough time to get out again before the end of the kids’ lesson, we put the kite away and chatted a bit with the other people on the beach. When we saw the instructor’s dinghy heading back we left to meet them on Ubi. The boys were ecstatic about it and they were explaining what happened. Naomie was a bit more reserved about expressing her enthusiasm. The instructors complimented us on the kids’ manners and they said they were naturals. We asked them what they should do next, and they said the boys are ready to go on the board. We told them we needed to talk among ourselves before committing on paying for another lesson. The conclusion of the said talk was that the kids should definitely have another session, as it is a very good spot to learn and we should surf on the wave of excitement of the kids. After a quick snack, the kids went on S/V Maple to continue a board game they started the day before. Then the whole anchorage got on land around a bonfire, some food and some beers. We learnt there that Adrien, the kitesurf instructor, lost his outboard engine in the deep water in the lesson right after the kids’. Somehow its bolts got loose. Without an engine, we can speculate that he won’t be able to teach tomorrow. So we’ll probably teach them some more kite controls before stepping on the board.
Of course the bad news about all this is that soon enough the kids will be asking for their own kite/board/harness and that we will need to store them on the boat and we’d need a stronger outboard to rescue them and therefore a bigger dinghy would be needed. And finally, we’d need a bigger boat to fit all this new gear. We have definitely opened a pandora box of new expenses. But that is OK, I can already picture the 5 of us with our kites… I can hardly wait.
Lagoon day – June 25th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Tue Jun 25 2019
The wind died down progressively in the morning until it was nearly absent after lunch. We had a morning on the boat with laundry, a bit a school, some reading and nothing too exciting. We saw a large number of boats leave, some North to the village as the supply ship is coming tomorrow and they want fresh produce; and some to the pass, as the conditions will be very good for snorkeling. We had a quick lunch as we wanted to meet some other boats at the lagoon for snorkeling. It is located just South of the kite beach and it is a small surface of water surrounded by flat coral surfaces that are sharp and pointy like some volcanic formations. The water in the lagoon is very clear and since it is very shallow, between one and two feet, it is like swimming in a very large swimming pool, in the shallow section. With our fins and snorkels, we were flying over white sand and dead corals for a bit until the water deepened and large coral heads hosted hundreds of fish, sea cucumbers and shells. We stayed there for twenty minutes or so and then decided to swim back as the kids wanted to find more hermit crabs on the beach. On our way back, we spotted a black tip shark but it was a juvenile and it got scared when it noticed we noticed it. The kids played at the beach with the other kids and I came back to Ubi to do some baking for tomorrow’s big event. I saw S/V Vega pulling in and setting anchor just next to us. They were late at this anchorage as they needed to post a video to sell their boat in a few months. We were happy to see them here: they are a great family. They all joined the majority at the beach until the sunset. I went to discuss tomorrow’s plans with Vega and Maple: we’ll have a quiet morning each on our own boat, then we’ll meet at the kite beach for a beach party with cake, drinks and game. In the evening, we’ll have a smaller celebration with the 5 of us. The next day and the following, we’ll have more potluck, sundowners and get together until we part ways.
I forgot to mention the other shark sighting of the day. As we were going to the beach by dinghy, we came by a boat from Hood River. The owner just came back from spear fishing with a large grouper. Around his dinghy, 5 or 6 sharks were circling: the smell of blood in the water, maybe. Not the best time to swim near the boats. I am not sure which species they belong too but they were maybe 6 feet long. Probably not big enough to consider us as lunch but still hungry enough to come and steal a fish from you. Beautiful beasts that deserve our respect and admiration. We’ll likely see a lot of them in the pass, in a few days.
40 years old! – June 26th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus, French Polynesia
Wed Jun 26 2019
Aujourd’hui, c’est un post en Francais, et de Nath! (for English speakers, please use Google Translate today!)
Comment feter ses 40 ans… En beaute, et pas qu’a moitie! Michael avait fait un plan de la journee, et je n’avais qu’a me laisser porter par une brise legere de bonheur contagieux… Tout d’abord, il fallait que je reste au lit pendant que le pain finissait de cuire et que les enfants et Michael finissent de preparer la table du petit dejeuner. J’ai donc lu tranquillement, en entendant des petits chuchotements tout mignons… J’ai aussi pu avoir les parents et Marie sur le telephone satellite!! Puis c’etait enfin l’heure: La table du carre etait magnifique, avec des belles fleurs et une petite souris en origamis. Le cafe sentait bon et les enfants etaient tout excites. Apres le petit dejeuner, j’ai eu droit a une heure toute seule avec Naomie: elle avait planifie d’aller a la plage ensemble et chercher des bernards l’hermite. Quel moment precieux. Imaginez ces couleurs d’eau turquoise, de sable blanc, de coraux, de cocotiers, et de ciel bleu. Ajoutez-y une chaleur douce et une compagnie adorable. les bernards l’hermite nous chatouillaient gentillement la paume de la main. Apres une heure de discussions et decouvertes, nous sommes retournees au bateau, ou les garcons avaient l’air de travailler d’arrache pied. Nous sommes restes a l’exterieur, sur la jupe, a deguster un pamplemousse des Marquises et boire de l’eau fraiche. Puis c’etait au tour de Bastien, qui avait lui decide de faire un tour en stand up paddle ensemble. Nous avons pagaye jusque la plage, a l’unisson et tout heureux, et nous avons aussi discute et cherche des creatures sauvages sur le sable fin. Puis retour au bateau, et finalement, c’etait le tour de Noah, qui lui aussi voulait aller a la plage avec moi. Nous avons trouve le plus gros des bernards l’hermite. Nous avons ecourte un peu notre aventure, car ce coin de la plage etait infeste de moustiques.
De retour au bateau, j’ai enfin pu alle a l’interieur, ou la decoration etait belle, joyeuse et coloree. Nous avons eu un bon dejeuner, avec un pain fait-bateau, et en forme de 4 et 0! Aaaah ce bon pain chaud… Puis petite sieste d’1/4 heure avant de filer a la plage, ou Michael avait invite tous les bateaux avoisinants rencontres il y a plus d’un mois pour certains, et la veille pour d’autres. C’etait un sublime apres-midi, ou plusieurs bateaux ont fait des gateaux, et ou j’ai recu des cadeaux! Des dessins de plusieurs enfants, des boucles d’oreilles et bracelet de Sigri (13 ans, sur Vega), collier de Ella, (12 ans, sur Maple), bracelet en spectra de John (Papa sur Free Spirit), 2 bouteilles de champagne de Vega et Knot Home. Quelle fete! Nous avons passe l’apres-midi a discuter, se baigner, manger et boire, pendant que les enfants s’amusaient sur la plage et dans l’eau. Il y avait une 30aine de personnes, donc une 10aine d’enfants.
A la nuit tombee, nous sommes rentres sur le bateau, et avons decide de faire un diner chips/gateau. C’etait le temps des cadeaux. Nous etions tous tres excites. Naomie m’a offert 6 cadeaux faits main bien sur, avec beaucoup de dessins, un petit livre ecrit a la main, et un bol que Milou m’avait offert au Mexique, et qu’elle m’avait pique il y a un mois pour l’emballer et me l’offrir pour mon anniversaire… Bastien m’a offert une magnifique carte dessinee avec un paysage inspire de ce qu’on voit ici: bateaux, eaux turquoises, sable blanc, etc. Il m’a aussi ecrit un poeme (les premieres lettres de chaque ligne se mettent ensemble):
Made out of love
4 you to love
0 my god you are nice
Even stronger than
Regret list: nothing
Sailing on Ubi
Noah m’a ecrit tout un livre de poemes. J’ai le droit d’en lire un par jour…
Puis Michael m’a offert en Harmonica, Benn et Flore un massage avec douche illimitee (hihihi!!! yes yes yes!), Marie et Jon des cours de plongee en apnee avec la prof Aline ici (yes!!), Papa et Maman de la plongee dans le pass incroyable ou on voit des requins etc. (Merci!!)
Comme diraient les enfants, je suis pourrie gatee. Je suis heureuse et profite pleinement du moment present. Je vieillis heureuse, en bonne sante, entouree d’un mari et d’enfants que j’adore, et avec qui je passe des journees inoubliables, en realisant mes reves les plus fous. Quelle belle vie. Merci a vous tous qui nous donnent tant d’amour et nous font confiance et nous suivent dans nos idees folles.
South pass anchorage day – June 27th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Thu Jun 27 2019
As planned with the other kids’ boats, we woke up before 6am to go to the South pass. At 6am, our engine was on and the anchor was been raised. No issue with bringing all the chain on the boat, luckily. The anchor had a good ball of white sticky mud. We left the anchor in the water to wash it off. We pointed the boat towards the pass, 6 miles Southwest, right at sunrise. We put the gib out and shut the engine off to enjoy a nice sail in these very nice waters. Nathalie was up front on the bow to spot possible coral reefs but we saw none that were a danger. We sailed past an island that is called Motu Kokakoka: it is a small island near the atoll reefs with a small sandy beach and a few trees. We talked about maybe stopping there on our way back to the Southeast anchorage and set up some kids activities there like a treasure hunt or an obstacle course. After 90 minutes, we approached the destination. The anchorage is between 15 and 10 meters deep, with lots of coral heads. We came in at the same time as a big squall so we didn’t have enough visibility to aim to land the anchor in a coral-free spot. So we dropped anchor right behind an Ovni 385 from 2004. Adrien mentioned that we could set floating buoys on the chain to limit the tangling in the corals. So we installed a fender at 20 meters of chain and another one at 30, for about 40 meters of chains. I dove directly and saw a few black fin sharks in the bottom. The boat has her usual entourage of raymoras but these ones were not curiously chasing me around. The anchor was caught in between a valley of a coral structure, it won’t move. The buoys seemed to help the chain, it raised it with a gentle slop towards the boat. The first 20 meters were lying on the sand and got wrapped in the corals. I spent some time trying to set another fender closer to the anchor but I didn’t really manage to improve the situation. Back on the boat, the squall delivered its load of rain and wind. We radioed with the other boats to get a status on everyone. Three boats didn’t like the chop and the overall conditions and decided to go back to the previous anchorage directly. S/V Vega and us decided to weather the storm and wait it out. We got into our wetsuits and prepared to dinghy to the pass but,as we were about to board the dinghy, we hailed S/V Wiz that was on their dinghy. They told us that they tried to get another dive in the pass but the tide had turned already: we were too late. We then decided to snorkel around the boat and see the fish and sharks around here. We were anchored in front of a shallow area where some water from the ocean could flood over. The area near shore was getting unsettled with lots of sand in suspension in the water. We swam back to the boat and dove around there. Vega joined us and afterwards they came on board to talk and jump from the bow. They helped us finish the birthday chocolate cake from yesterday. After a few millions calories, we got off of our wetsuits (each family on our own boat) to go explore the neighboring village, which is mostly a few dive shacks and a bar. But, half way through our dinghy ride to the village, we realized that it was past noon and that we should just have lunch onboard first. So we got back, ate a quick bite and found some quality time for a good nap. Naomie, Nath and I slept for a little while, and the boys played. The boys then left with the Vega boys on the stand up paddle to go to the nearby beach. Naomie tagged along. I started a bread and then went to greet the guy on the other Ovni, S/V Ulys. Jean-Michel has been sailing his boat since 2006 all over. We talked about the issues we had with our sister boats and the things to be careful about. It was very interesting to see the difference between our two models. He showed me a few things and asked about how we did some other things on ours. Nathalie swam to meet us, but probably to get me back on the boat as I had been gone for over an hour and I could have spent more time sharing with Jean-Michel. He will probably join us at the other anchorage, when the stronger winds will pick up at the end of the week, so we’ll have more time to talk…
We invited S/V Vega for dinner on Ubi and we had a great evening. The adults were talking outside while the kids were playing with legos and cards inside. They were so busy playing that they didn’t want to eat yet when the food was ready. It didn’t matter: the adults ate and the kids got what was left, afterwards. We had a nice evening where we got to know them better. As luck would have it, they were in Le Marin, in Martinique, at the same time as us, two years ago. Big oceans but small world.
Snorkeling the pass day – June 28th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Fri Jun 28 2019
The night wasn’t good. Not because of the weather, there was basically no wind, but because of our close proximity to the neighboring Ovni. When I woke up in the night, I checked and our stern was one boat length from S/V Ulys. Our chain buoys were close to each other, indicating that there was not much tension on the chain. But nonetheless, we were too close. I pulled back 10 meters of chain by hand and as quietly as possible, meaning without the windlass. I woke up suddenly when I heard a bang in the front of the boat. I realized it was the paddle board that fell because of the wind. And again we were too close to comfort from Ulys. I pulled some more chain but it didn’t materialize in a significant gain in distance. At daybreak, I had enough, I pulled all the chain I took back in the night through the windlass manually, with the handle, to minimize the noise for the kids still sleeping. It was in preparation to raise the anchor. We fired the engine up and started to pull the rest of the chain with the windlass. We stopped twice to detach the chain buoys. At 20 meters, the chain was tight and the bow of the boat was slightly dipping down: we were stuck. I dove in the water and Nathalie went in front to control the windlass. The chain was wrapped around a boomy. I directed Nathalie to unwrap the chain. But once it got unwrapped we figured we needed someone at the helm too to control the speed and direction of the boat. So Noah got promoted as captain and did a great job at it. The anchor was still stuck in a boomy; when we pulled it the head of the anchor jammed into the coral and directly stopped. With our coordination from the water, from the helm and from the bow we eventually managed to set it free. We raised it three meters from the ground and moved forward to find a sandy bottom. I was hanging at the chain with a feet against the nose of the boat and I was looking ahead to spot a great hold. We found it at around 6 meters and laid the 40 meters of chain in and then over sand as we put two chain buoys.
S.V Ulys had its chain wrapped around a boomie near where our anchor was: we were practically anchored in the same spot; hence the proximity. With all these boomies, the typical anchoring strategy doesn’t apply; we must consider boomies and therefore you must give way more room to the other boats than we would typically do.
We ate the bread that we baked yesterday and then jumped into our wetsuits. We dinghied next to Vega then to the pass. We saw the village, with a few docks for diving shops and supposedly a bar, and a handful of diving boats spotting their customers in the water. A big sailboat was pinned in the reef; we heard of it a few days ago. It got into trouble while leaving the atoll at night: a diving buoy fouled their propeller. They set the sails up but couldn’t get through. The boat seemed to be less than 5 years old; a sad story. Apparently it has been thoroughly scavenged already and the insurance company is planning to tow it in deeper water to be sunken. We aimed to be in the pass at max current so we could drift back to the atoll, snorkeling but barely moving, flying over the underwater landscape. I attached our dinghy painter around my waist and joined everyone else in the water. We had a very good clarity, light and overall visibility. We dove in shallow waters but we could see the ridge nearby. It was surprising to see the bottom, as it was almost exclusively covered by corals. The pass must see billions of gallons of water go through and with it a lot of nutrients enter and leave the bay. The corals and the fish are strategically positioned to choose their menu as food is drifting in front of them. We saw many fish and a few black tip sharks. We must have drifted an hour, kids were progressively getting in the dinghy and we naturally stopped and headed back to the boat. We were surprised to see that the anchor had drug a bit and luckily stopped against a coral head. We raised the anchor without much trouble and headed to the Kokakoka motu with Askil, the first son on Vega. A short while after we dropped the anchor in 5 meters of water in a nice sandy patch, in between a field of boomies. We had a pasta lunch there before the kids went to shore with the paddle boards (we had Vega’s on board too). Nath and I stayed on Ubi for a little while until Vega dropped their anchor. I stayed on Ubi to clean and put back together the handheld VHF that was acting up since it got soaked the day of the kite rescue. It had been drying in rice for a few days and I cleaned it up with alcohol to remove the salt. But I am sad to report that the surgery did not work: the VHF is official dead. Vega left earlier to find a good spot at the anchorage. We got the kids back from the beach and headed there too. The wind had picked up already. We could see a few kiters taking advantage of the good conditions. We anchored near the beach in 2.5 meters of water, with 25 meters of chain. For some reason the water visibility has been very bad all day here but we could still make sure the anchor was nicely set when we dove it. We went to the beach to meet up with the other kids. When the sun was leaving the beach, we left too. We were the last to leave as Adrien was jumping with his kite right in front of the kids. Big nice air with some tricks. We signed up the boys for 2 hours of kite lessons tomorrow; they will be with the board this time; we’ll do something different for Naomie, or maybe another time. Nathalie also booked her first free diving lessons for Sunday with Guri on Vega. It is going to be interesting to see her progress.
The control to raise the rudder has an issue: it won’t lift the rudder anymore. It is not a issue for moving the boat but it needs to be fixed long term. I think it is the fitting on the piston that broke. I hope to be able to look at it from the water tomorrow. Otherwise we might need to wait until we haul the boat out. It seems the anode of the propeller also need to be changed so we have a few things to do here for the week of forecasted high winds.
More kite for the boys day – June 29th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Sat Jun 29 2019
With the anchor set, there was no real reason to wake up at night but I still did as a habit. When the sun came up, I was still ready to sleep some more but I couldn’t. We ate some oatmeal for breakfast and we had an early VHF call from S/V Vega: they were going diving in the pass and they were leaving their kids on their boat. Our kids were excited to spend some time with them, so they finished breakfast and I dropped them off by dinghy. Back on the boat, Nathalie was doing the laundry; the sun was out and there was a good prospect of wind to dry off the clean wet clothes. We lifted the saloon table to access the water tanks’ hatches. I wanted to check the water level as we have been running the water maker every day and, according to our estimation on our excel sheet, we should be topped off already. The tanks were indeed pretty full but not completely full, it could still hold another 40 liters. So we knew something was off. I started the water maker and measured how much water it would produce in 1 minute. It did only 25cl instead of the 50cl it is supposed to provide us. So I knew we had to work on it today. But I let it run for a while as the sun was shining. We adapted the excel sheet to compensate for the reduced rate and moved on to something else. I went to Vega to take over from Sigri, the elder daughter who was looking after her brothers but also our three kids. I dropped her off onto another boat and went back to play legos with the kids. At some point, Janet from S/V Maple came over to ask questions about bread making. Our French(-speaking) status makes us de facto experts in bread in the eyes of some North Americans but when I told Janet that I was baking the bread more by instinct than with measuring cups, she must have thought it was an art or maybe a genetically transmitted skill. I went back to Ubi to show her the consistency of the bread that was rising for lunch time. On my way back to Vega, I stopped by our neighbor, a 50ft performance catamaran with a Luxembourg flag. I simply wanted to check with him that he was comfortable with our relative proximity. We ended up talking about 1 hour and then it was time to get the kids back before their kite lesson. I brought all 5 kids to eat the freshly baked bread and we dressed the boys in their wetsuits. I dropped them off at Adrien’s boat with Nathalie’s board. Back on Ubi, I was ready for a nap but the wind was calling me. I packed my gear in the dinghy and left for the beach. There was light wind so I opted for the 12m. By the time I was ready to launch, two other men were there. I got a good launch and a lull made the kite sadly fall in the water. A bad start. I relaunch and got on my board, aggressively throwing the kite in figure-eight to keep it airborne. The wind was better out in the lagoon, but some chop had developed. I made a long tack to come closer to the dinghy where the kids were starting their lesson. It was a bit downwind so I had to work hard to go back to the beach, upwind. After a bit, I was feeling comfortable and ready to resume my jumping training. But I noticed the kite of Jean-Christophe, from the performance catamaran, was inverted and he had trouble relaunching it. He was drifting Northbound. I came back to the beach, asked Guri from Vega to catch my kite when I was landing it. She offered to take her faster dinghy to help the rescue. We rode towards the kite but we couldn’t see the kiter. Eventually, we spotted him and got him on the dinghy before we got his kite back. By the time, the weather had shifted and a squall was forming. I packed my kite as I saw the kids coming back from their lessons. They were still excited, albeit the so-so conditions. Noah managed to stand on the board for a few tacks; Bastien not quite yet but he scored a few long jumps that he really liked. We got them back to the boat; they changed into dry clothes and got some warm milk. We played a card game then they had a 30min reading time during which Nath and I opened the locker of the water maker to extract its primary pump. We ran it a second to listen to the noise it was making, as a reference for later. I had an idea of what was wrong, as I did some similar maintenance on it a few months back, in Mexico. We opened it up on the table, keeping track of each piece. Two of the charcoals of the rotor were not engaging properly. So we lubricated them and re-assembled the pump. Back in the locker, we ran it for a second and its sound was much better: a higher pitch indicating a bigger RPM. We re-connected it in the water maker and we’ll see tomorrow how much our production rate will increase.
It was then time for the pig roast. The local people living by the beach had decided to kill one of their pigs and wanted to share it -for a fee- with the 30 or so boats anchored in front of their house. 40 people came in the party and we had a good time: a buffet of food was available and it was topped off by a brownie. When I bought a beer, I saw they had plenty of eggs in their fridge so they would not sell us some as they keep it for cakes that they can charge for, for much worth its value in eggs. The kids were playing with all the other kids, collecting hermit crabs and playing tag. The adults talked until it was time for us to head back.
S/V Vega talked about their dive in very positive terms: one of the top 5 they had. They saw more than 500 sharks, mostly gray’s. We’ll still have some time to decide if we will dive this time around, or during one of our other 2 visits planned for the Tuamotus in the coming year.
We need to sleep somewhat early because we have our free diving class tomorrow morning. We need to be refreshed and not drink coffee in order to keep our heart rate low. I am curious to see our progress. Lately, in the nights I can’t sleep, I try to hold my breath and I can reach about 90 seconds. I wonder how we’ll do tomorrow.
Static apnea day – June 30th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Sun Jun 30 2019
The day started abruptly was it was 7:20am and, for once, we had a morning schedule to comply with: yoga and static apnea on the beach with Aline. We woke up everyone and had a quick breakfast without coffee and caffeine increases the heart rate which plays against breath holding. The five of us took the dinghy to the beach; Aline was already setting up the mats for yoga below a tree. The strong wind blew all night and it was still present in the morning. We started with sun salutation although the sun was absent. The yoga routine included the normal poses and gently stretched our stiff bodies. We all got this reminder that we should start all days with a gentle yoga session: we had virtually all the time in the world, we don’t really have an excuse to not take care more of our bodies. It should be part of the regular maintenance regiment, since our bodies are a vital part of our lifestyle: with aching bodies, we are less performant, less tolerant with each other and less able to do the things we thought we’d do on a boat. We might again do some yoga on the beach tomorrow morning… This morning session had a special focus on the breathing: we tried to inhale from our diaphragm and fill the lower part of our lungs. This breathing mode is supposed to better oxygenate the blood and saturate it as much as possible, before the breath holdings. After thirty minutes or so, we started the deep inhalations. We laid down on our mat and started by a long relaxation on our back to remove any unneeded muscle tension: a contracted muscle consumes ten times more oxygen than a relaxed one. We then did some deep breathing from the belly, followed by some cleansing breaths from the top of the lungs and then we took in a large breath and we held it in. Aline was keeping track of our times while providing some relaxation narrative for us to follow. Once we could not hold our breath anymore, we would raise our hand so she could note down our time. She explained before that our body would provoke an emotional response to the apnea and would engage the lung contraction reflex, in which the body tries to break the hold and get some fresh air. Aline said that we can logically fight this reflex and override this urge to breathe. The first breath hold was hard for me as I felt I inhaled too much and therefore stretched my whole upper body to hold all that air. It takes some effort to keep this tension and I had to let out some air to feel less like a pufferfish in panic. Nath held for 1:15 minute and I did for 1:25. The second was better: 2:10 and 2:40. It was time to meet the water and do it there. One at a time, we got in the water with Aline, in our wetsuit, as the sun was still not awake and the wind kept us on the cold side. We would be head in the water, freely floating, and she would hold us. She walked us through the process: we would breathe with our snorkel and get ready for apnea as we did on the sand. Our face in the water, without a mask, would stimulate a primal reaction to hold our breath better, as in the days we were fish. She would tap our shoulder at every thirty seconds interval and we would respond by lifting a finger, so she can check we did not passed out. Guri, from S/V Vega went first, then Nathalie then it was my turn. I went for a little walk to talk to Jean-Christophe who was getting ready to kite. Nathalie got her turn and then I came in the water. I didn’t ask Nathalie her time as I didn’t want the extra pressure of competition. I talked with Aline before letting my head in the water. At first, I kept my eyes open and tried to relax. I was breathing via the snorkel and then I inhaled a long breath and let the snorkel go. The first 2 minutes were relatively easy: I didn’t feel any lung reflex and was very calm. Shortly after two minutes, the spasms started and it got uncomfortable. I felt a bit light headed and I had a feeling that I was drifting very fast through the water. I had a similar experience in the floating tanks back in Portland, where we did a sensory depravation sessions: the brain switches to some other wavelengths, the mind drifts in search for any sensation and amplifies it ones felt or imagined. After another 1 minute, I started to get water entering my nose; I had to get out. I tried another time, but I was getting cold and my body was starting to shiver, which takes out energy and thereby oxygen: 2 minutes 40 on my second trial. Nathalie did 1 minute 10 on her first trial (bad inhalation) and 2:05 afterwards but she was already cold before entering the water. We have a much better idea of how to hold our breath and how to safely train to exceed our performances. We went back to the boat to get change and then we joined the kids who took our dinghy in the morning from the beach to Vega. We had a nice coffee there, watched the weather forecast with very strong winds heading our way and talked about Norway. We watched together our Ubi video number 0 (the one with the house throughout the seasons) and it was 2pm. We got back to Ubi and played a bit: some card games, some qwirkle and some video games. Nathalie and I went to set up the second anchor in front of the first one. We connected a 15 meters 10mm chain to the main chain and extended it under water to the secondary anchor of 20 kilos. We now have a combined 40 meters of chain and 45 kilos of anchor holding us down in 2.5 meters of water: a very safe scope even with the strong winds we are preparing for.
We had an early dinner, as we skipped lunch, made out of pizza with turkey, cheese and pineapple. And then we finished an action movie we started a few days ago.
The night is dark with the new moon. The sounds of wind through the rigging seem amplified by the darkness. I hoped that the extra chain and anchor will appease our sense of dragging awareness, i.e. that we will be able to sleep soundly without wondering whether or not the boat is moving. The last few nights, I have been waking up too many times to check our relative position with the neighboring boats. We also have vivid dreams about waves, ocean and roaring winds that are keeping us on high alert during the night. It is definitely another primal emotional reaction that our intellect should be able to fight. Maybe we should do a bit of relaxation before sleeping… although it is going to be hard to do anything more once our head touches the pillow.
The kids are very comfortable with the boys on Vega. It really makes a difference when there is such a good synergy: they can play for a long time and hence they do not need lots of attention from us. They are picking up some Norwegian: a few sentences and also some of the so characteristic intonation of that language. With the 30 or so boats sheltered in this anchorage, we’ll wait for the cloudy and windy weather to pass. Until then, we’ll have more time with Vega and with the other boats that are forming our temporary community.
The wind was more consistent this morning than yesterday. But gusts have picked up and I still hear them right now, shifting the boat from right to left and left to right as a kite hanging from a thread. The wind velocity is in a good range for kiteboarding: I hope that we will do some tomorrow.
Canada day – July 1st 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Mon Jul 01 2019
We slept well last night. I didn’t get up to check the boats around thanks to the second anchor. We started by wishing over VHF a happy Canadian day to S/V Maple, as they are Canadian and it is the national independence day in Canada on the 1st of July. They had a session on the beach for the kids to discuss about Canada and we learnt quite a few things about that very large country. I had to get back to the boat mid point as the bread was cooking unsupervised and I wanted to welcome it out of the oven. It had nicely risen but unfortunately didn’t survive our lunch. So I prepared another one for tomorrow. Nathalie baked a cake that doesn’t ask for eggs: it will be for tomorrow. We didn’t kite today as the wind seems more consistent in the morning and it just flew by so fast. We are planning for some tomorrow.
Not much comes to mind as what we did today, which is scary. There were a few boat related tasks we completed but nothing major: we repaired the handle of a kite board; we dove to see the boomies in our neighborhood in case the wind shifts to the North but the forecast doesn’t indicate it to be likely. We are expecting high winds, in the 30s, with gusts around 50 knots. So we are staying put in Fakarava for it seems another week at least.
Another rainy day – July 2nd 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Tue Jul 02 2019
As we went to bed early, we woke up early this morning. It was gray but without much wind. All boats close to shore were aligned to the curve of the beach, oriented by the side current. The kids started their day by playing on the paddle board; it attracted the other boat kids and soon enough they were playing hide and go seek with their board between boats. We took this kid-less time to look closer at the rudder. Nathalie put her wetsuit on and I was her on-board assistant. We removed the plate hiding the piston of the rudder to see where the issue was. Contrary to what I believed, the issue was not the flexible connection to the piston but it seems to be the seal on the rod of the piston: when we pump the hydraulic system, the fluid escapes along the rod. It is a bit disappointing as we changed the rod in Portland only a year ago. It is not clear we can fix it with the boat in the water; we need to check online when we are back closer to civilization. In the meantime, we can lift the rudder manually and bring it down with the hydraulic control. So it is not a big urgent problem. We cleaned the internal cavity from the sea creatures that took resisdence there and we closed it back up. After that we went swimming a bit to check at the nearby boomies and the fish that live there. As we are in shallow water, it is easy to witness all the activity down there. Also, it rained all morning so the water at the surface was colder than deeper below; if only we could stay longer at these depths. We definitely need to continue our apnea training. The kids stayed on S/V Vega as they were watching a movie so we cleaned up the boat and tried to find a piece for a grommet tool: we need to put some on the bimini to relieve some of the stress on the zippers: in windy days, there are getting damaged and either the fabric rips or the zipper fouls. S/V Maple had an extra grommet tool so they gave it to us. I brought them a bottle of boatmade apple kombucha to thank them. When it was time for lunch, we called the kids back but they already received lunch on Vega so we ate the two of us and then decided it was a good day to watch a movie -although we didn’t have enough sunlight to recharge the computer. So we put it in battery saver mode and started “the mysterious life of Walter Mitty”. We couldn’t finish it but we very much enjoyed it: the story is refreshing and reminiscent of the series Scrubs, but we very much enjoyed the quality of the filming and the creativity in the transitions. Since we started to put out our video adventures, we clearly pay more attention to these cinematic details. We are excited to do more and probably with better equipment than the simple setup that we are using now. At this point, each video is taking a long time to come out: we cannot work on it every day as our battery and our time are the limiting factor. That being said, Nathalie is working on video 22 about the Pacific crossing and we hope to have it ready for when we reach Tahiti.
The weather system didn’t look as bad as yesterday in the latest weather model. We invited the Vega parents to come and check it out while having coffee and the cake Nathalie made yesterday. We talked for a good while while their boat was literally invaded by kids of three other boats. In the later part of the afternoon, we went out to walk to the ocean side shore. We started from the nearest beach and then had to cross the stretch of land separating the sheltered lagoon from the stormy ocean. A local woman guided us through a path cut out in the jungle and paved with washed up corals. We eventually reached the ocean and the storm was raging. Big winds and large waves were crashing on the coral reef surrounding the atoll. Such a contrast to the conditions in the lagoon side. It reminded us of the storms on the Oregon coast but for the temperature. The beach is nothing than dead corals in different bits and pieces, broken off by powerful waves and being recycled by nature, inexorably. Sadly, there is lots of plastics on the beach: bottles, ropes, lighters, shoes, etc. We felt ashamed for all this litter: the people living here are poor and don’t have much prospect and all they seem from the rest of the world is the boaters who stop by for a few days/weeks and the garbage that appears by sea. Pretty sad. The kids picked up some empty coconuts and inserted some rope for the beach to make old-fashion-looking bombs. We found some beautiful white corals that looked like a cristalline structure, and delicate shells with intricate designs on their outer surface. We made a big loop and ended up back to the shallow lagoon where we snorkeled a few days ago. The water was too high for us to cross, as we had our rain gear on, not our swim suits. So we walked around the lagoon and we ended up crossing across the strip on coconut jungle back to the dinghies. We stayed for a bit while this others were returning to their boats. We went to talk with the lady who gave us directions earlier. She was in her house, cooking on a metal bucket cut open on the side. She was feeding a fire to boil a liquid in a large pot. She explained she was making candies from coconut milk. They grind the coconut meat in small flakes and mix it with small leaves they call horahora. The mixture is then pressed in a cheese cloth to extract the coconut milk and they reduce it like a caramel in the shape of round candies. They gave a few to each of us for a taste. They showed us the plants of horahora and offered us some as it can be added to a salad or with poisson cru. They also showed us a plant of hiri, which ressembles the shape and taste of basil leaves. They gave us a bunch too. We offered them our empty propane tank as we thought they might be able to made a barbecue or stove out of it, a large 60-liter container we used for diesel that they could wash and use for rain water collection and a fishing ride that needs some love and a better home. We asked them about what type of fish they eat here and they said that none had ciguatera and they described the ones they liked. We saw of of them this morning near the boat when we peeled off our daily grapefruit. Tomorrow we might get the speargun out of the bilge and try to add fresh fish in our menu. Taking about food, we made a soup with onions, a can of tomato and the herbs they gave us, with some thin noodles. Quite a success. As we didn’t recharge our batteries from last night, we ate under the dim lights of Lucie Lights. It gives this warm camping atmosphere when we are saving our boat energy. It is not uncomfortable for a few days and it indeed feels good to see that we are consuming 0.00 amps while the other boats are running their generator -except for all the smart ones having a silent wind generator. Therefore, we are in bed very early tonight and ready to sleep to see another great day tomorrow.
High wind day – July 3rd 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Wed Jul 03 2019
We went to bed early last night but it didn’t give us a good night because of the very high winds. The forecast was calling for sustained winds from the South and Southeast in the 30s with gusts higher. The double anchor and the large scope should have given us the peace of mind to have a good and long night but it wasn’t enough. The wind was screaming in the rigging and the boat was jerking from one side to the other. The snubber line is squeaky when tensioned under a gust. And from time to time we see flashes of light: people peeking outside to see how they are holding, adding some chain or checking whether their neighboring boats are still where they are supposed to be. We are anchored close to the beach so we didn’t fear that another boat would drag on us. But dragging onto another boat wouldn’t be great either. So we lay in bed and listen to the noises, trying to identify all of them and see the lights of the others’ anchor light evolving around our cabin as the boat swings from the bow. Many stimuli to keep us awake and alert. Nathalie ended up with ear plugs and me with my pillow over my head. The morning finally came and, as the wind calmed down, we just wanted to stay in bed and start the night over. But we got out of bed and started our day. I could have baked some bread since I was awake during the night but we felt as if we were underway and it is hard to motivate us to bake in these conditions. So we ate some of our last cereals, while monitoring the battery starting to charge slowly. The sun took over from the wind and we could run the fridge and recharge the computers. Simple pleasure of seeing the sun’s energy transforming into potential for a great day. I started kneading a bread and I went ashore with Bastien to give a few items to the local family; they were greatful, they offered a candy to Bastien and gave us a green coconut from a tree that had fallen in the night. They opened it up for us with a machete and we returned on the boat to share it. The kids were invited to S/V Knot Home to do an activity around the coming Independence Day. When they left to participate, we made some water and charged all the electronic devices we could plug in. We put the bread in the oven and we saw the 2 or 3 kites in front of the beach. We took the 7 and the 10 and headed to the beach with all our gear. Nathalie dropped me off and I launched the 7. The wind was in the high 20s with strong gusts. The water in the atoll was confused with lots of current and chops. It was a great session amid the challenging conditions. I had to do long tacks to get back upwind enough, especially when there was only one other kiter in the water with me. When I saw in land his kite on the beach, I headed there too so he could catch mine. My legs were tired but I would have liked to have continued a bit more to show off in front of the family; maybe tomorrow. I was wrapping to the lines around the bar when I saw Nathalie in the dinghy with the kids and Vega’s. She brought a couple of sandwiches from the fresh bread while the kite was drying in the wind. The plan was to have a group walk back to the ocean side to see the effect of the storm last night. I still had the time to swing by the boat to get changed, to take the rain jackets and to take a pack of chocolate as dessert.
We gathered at the beach and set the group in motion. The wind and waves were strong as the day before. How glad were we to be protected inside the atoll. The sea conditions were miserable out there. We talked with the parents and the kids started to build a fort in the bushes nearing the beach. After an hour or so, we headed back to the calm side and watched an action movie. Before 7pm our dinner was done. It was pitch black, it could have been 10pm. The winds arr calmer than the night before and the night should be much better.
The conditions should improve in the weekend. We are planning to head back to the North side to provision and get some internet. Then we need to decide the rest of our month of July. We could stay more in Fakarava, or visit other atolls in the Tuamotus, or cross to Pape’ete as we will have more time later in the season to go back to the Tuamotus.
It is a great place, with finally very good conditions for kiting. There weather hasn’t been perfect every day but we don’t mind too much the variations as long as we have some sun every day. On the other hand, we only saw two atolls out of the 70 or so. And Tahiti and the Society Islands are also waiting for us. Many good options.
Independence Day – July 4th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Thu Jul 04 2019
You know you have a boat kid when she tries to get your attention by calling three times your name and then giving hers, followed by “on 16”. Naomie wanted to ask something to Nath who was reading and didn’t answer fast enough to her liking so she hailed her: “Maman, Maman, Maman from Naomie on 16”, similarly to how the boats are hailing each other all day long. It was funny and it worked: she got the attention of all of us.
The night was very windy again with strong gusts shaking the boat. All the sounds are amplified in our 10-ton aluminum can making it hard for us to sleep. At 5am I woke up hearing the front line snapping. It is doubled by another line but it is still never good when things break. I took a spare one in the starboard locker and went on deck to replace it. I realized then that it was only a dream: the line was still there and holding well. I couldn’t get back to sleep after that and I saw Nathalie sleeping well in our bunk so I let her take the whole bed and took my pillow to the saloon where I lied down. Over the course of two hours, Bastien lied near me, sharing my pillow. Then Naomie came to play chess with him and she gave me her fairy blanket while I slept. Noah and Nathalie woke up too and started the day. We talked about kiting in the morning to take advantage of the steadier wind but it looked too strong for our quiver. So we invited S/V Maple over to make a bread side by side. They brought their ingredients so we could compare notes. They brought English muffins they baked and their offline Wikipedia encyclopedia to share. We read a bit about Leonardo Da Vinci as we are starting a new book on robotics. So amazing he lived in the 1500s and did so much on his life. Our bread turned out good but not as great as yesterday’s one, according to Nath. Curiously enough, Maple used their flour with levain and, all other variables being equals, it turned out much heavier and needed more time to rise. As usual, the bread didn’t survive past lunch. We ate it with a can of sardines prepared with mustard and horahora leaves. It is good we are still finding ways to varied meals although we didn’t buy anything for almost 10 days. I dropped of the family on the beach for their daily walk to the ocean side and kept Noah with me. We went to see the local woman and we gave them some hooks and fishing lines. We ended up talking for some time and we learnt that the supply ship did not come last Wednesday to the atoll and therefore there is no rush to go North to provision. We need to see if it will come this week, depending on the sea state. The weather is forecasted to be improving in the coming days so the prospect is good. We are still deciding what to do when the weather improves but I think we’ll settle on a plan by tomorrow’s post. After the walk, the kids were invited to watch a movie on S/V Free Spirit. Nathalie watched a movie on her own and I went to the beach with a vague intention to kite. But the wind was too strong, the weather cloudy trending rainy and it was getting dark. So I watched a bit a brave soul who was out there and talked to a few people on the beach. When the rain settled in, i returned to the boat and we sat down for a cup of tea. Aline, the free diver, came by to check the latest weather forecast and we chatted until the kids were sent home after their movie. Lentils and rice were for dinner. The kids did the dishes without complaining in the prospect to watch another movie tonight, after they are done with their own journals.
I haven’t checked my regular emails (regular compared to satellite emails) for a few weeks now and we do feel cut off from the world. It is a good feeling to not carry our phone with us all the time and that these days we need to think where we stored them as they are not used much. But at the same time, we feel disconnected and out of reach: our family would know to use our satellite email in case they needed a quick reaction from us but we are missing the small chats on WhatsApp or the picture updates on Instagram. Internet is a blessing in many regards, a very addictive one though. A high speed connection is definitely on our list of things we’ll have in our next home.
One year on Ubi – July 5th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Fri Jul 05 2019
A year ago, the kids and I drove to Port Angeles in the Washington state. We waited for a few hours on the waterfront while checking the AIS to be at the dock when Nath, Mark and Steve would arrive after their 200 miles from
Astoria, Oregon, where we left them a few days before. When Ubi was docked and safe, we spent our first night on her since the Caribbean’s and it was the beginning of our adventure. 365 nights after that day, we are in the Tuamotus, some thousands of miles away from Port Angeles. Still afloat and healthy, we are ready for more.
This day called for celebration but that would need to wait a day or two since Nathalie went North this morning with S/V Vega to provision at the village. I took their second, Åskill, for an extended sleep over. I performed the exchange this morning by dinghy, Nathalie and Åskill were very excited about their respective sleepover. As the morning was gray and rainy, I told the 4 kids they could play on their video games until they ran out of juice but I disn’t expect the battery life of their devices was so good. I got time to check the water level of the batteries, make a bread and find a prop anode to replace the old one. We devoured the bread with butter and strawberry jam and then S/V Knot Home came over to check the weather forecast; they don’t have the same system as ours and they are happy to come over to visually see the forecast on a large screen and with high resolution. They are short in time because they don’t have the extended visas for French Polynesia so they need to move on and get to Papeete sooner than later. The weather seems to gradually improve in the coming days and the waves on the ocean should subside and the trade winds should come back to their normal selves.
After the weather check, we all got to the beach and spent the whole afternoon there until the sun started to fade. I brought some of the bottles and cans we were keeping in our trash to the local lady and she can use them for the coconut oil and candies to package them. I played with Bastien in the water and I ended up throwing him in the water. Directly, a line of kids formed to be thrown in the water too. Unfortunately some kids are older but mostly heavier than my kids so it was a challenge for them and me
to catch some air. So they came on my shoulders and tried to stand straight on my hands before I extended them up. Still a challenge for some kids but this way the challenge was also theirs to stay balanced. A few kiters tried their luck in the lighter wind but it didn’t looked strong enough for our kites, so no regrets.
After a quick shower with the rain water we collected in the previous days, I prepared dinner while the kids out loud music. We watched an avenger movie before sending them to bed.
Coincidentally today also marks the two years we have bought Ubi. We’ll celebrate tomorrow with Nathalie.
Nathalie’s perspective follows.
It’s been a year today… A YEAR! A year that we have been living on Ubi, a year that we have been nomads, a year that we have been checking the weather every day and lived with it (as opposed to in parallel), a year that we have been living together and in this sailing community. A year of high highs and low lows. A year of discoveries. A year of blue all around us. Today is not a typical day in this year. We are apart for more than a few hours and it is one of the first times. Mike is with the kids + 1 on Ubi, in the south anchorage of Fakarava where we have been stuck for days due to a storm that is finally passing. I am on SV Vega, and we sailed 30 miles North to the village in North Fakarava to get some provisions! We were all very excited to get produce… The only fresh vegetables and fruits were green bananas and butternut squash, but it is so much more than nothing. No eggs, no tomatoes, no cucumbers, no lettuce, no many things. The ship that comes once a week didn’t come because of the weather, and might not come this week neither for the same reason. But I found cheese, cans, milk, cookies, sugar, flour, and chocolate of course. It feels good. But I do miss being able to buy anything easily. I also miss long warm showers. I miss a little more time alone. I miss having a big project for myself. I miss silence. I miss internet so much: I miss talking to my family, to my friends regularly, I miss seeing them on video, I miss seeing pictures of them on Facebook or Instagram, I miss searching for things that I want to know. On the positive side, we discovered how much more time we have without internet. We used to spend so much time watching videos, news, social media. Probably a couple hours PER DAY! We spend that time now reading, cooking, swimming, being together and/or with friends.
Life is simpler. Within this small community, we help each other a lot. For tools, taking care of kids, ingredients, advice, weather news. We understand each other easily. We all want to live the life we choose, and we all worked hard to be stuck in that anchorage
After 2 or 3 weeks without internet and being able to get fresh produce, I am happy to have one night at the village with more internet and a few produce. Tomorrow I will be back on Ubi in the South anchorage and we will hopefully take advantage of better weather for more kiting. It is fun but I realize that I feel homesick, whatever that means now. One year on the boat taught us a lot about ourselves. It also showed us that wether we have a job or not, wether we have time or not, we still need to determine ahead of time what we want to prioritize in our day to make it happen. Doing sports or music or whatever doesn’t happen because we want to and we have time. It happens when we determined to plan the day around it. And it then easily becomes “the best part of our day”. That I think this is my greatest lesson so far.
Rainy day, again : ( – July 6th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Sat Jul 06 2019
When will this storm end? We were supposed to have an easy night with low wind and no rain. But in the second part of the night, the wind picked up and veered to the South. Strong gusts screamed through the rigging and the rain poured like in Oregon. I woke up a few times to place the rain catchment hose in different buckets. By the end of the night, the buckets were full. The four kids woke up at the same time, although I thought Askil would sleep more as he must be tired. He is sleeping in Bastien’s bed, in Naomie’s room. The two of them were chatting a lot last night until Askil asked politely if Naomie could let him sleep. She took it well, rolled over and fell asleep on the dime. The night was otherwise calm.
Breakfast was off the bread that cooked last evening. Then they played some video games. I did the dishes and then I dove under the boat to change the anode of the propeller. It was time to change it as only a small portion was still there. The two raymoras that now live under our boat are big, probably over 2 feet, but they stayed focused on the hull and they didn’t come to bother me. When I got the anode out, Jean-Christophe from S/V Viva Too came by to talk on his way back from dropping his kids for kite lessons. He opened by saying that the lessons were on the pricy side and we talked a bit about his work. Keeping it short here, the kite lessons will not dent his travelling budget. The rain put a temporary stop to our discussion. I was in swimsuit but he wasn’t so he went back to his big catamaran. I dove and finished the replacement. I used the rain water to rinse the tools. I was about to rinse myself with the same technique but a large squall came in and lots of rain fell down. I used this timely shower to shower.
When I asked what the kids wanted for lunch, they all said bread. Good thing I baked a large one last evening. I then proposed that they continue their movie while we eat. With some luck, they might not think it is something that will enter our habits. We learnt that S/V Vega left the North anchorage but the South wind impeached their progress. So they stopped ten miles in and stayed there for the day. I broke the news to Askil and the kids and all were happy to have another full day together. They got invited to another boat but they declined. I would have liked some time alone but with screen at hand they are low maintenance. In the afternoon, we went to the beach even though the weather was still miserable. They played on the beach, dug a pool and swam, unbothered by the gray sky nor the drizzle. S/V Olena came to invite them for a movie but they declined again: they preferred the beach. When the rain became stronger and colder we headed back. They got a rain water shower on the swimstep and then we played qwirkle. I prepared a quick rice dinner and then they wrote their journal. They are now playing while I am finishing this post.
Many people here are surprised and a bit disappointed by the unusual cold and rainy weather in Fakarava. So far, we have handled it well but it is time for the sun and the heat to come back. I see mold spots forming and I want to use the rain water for laundry. The batteries could use a good day of strong sun.
A guy on the beach gave me a good idea for our problematic fridge. I would need to do some online searches to orient my debugging but there are a few things I can already do/check here. I’ll keep you posted. In any case, we have very little left that needed refrigeration so it is still not a big issue.
Getting ready to cross to Tahiti – July 10th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Wed Jul 10 2019
Breaking a few days of silence tonight. The rain finally stopped and the mostly blue sky came back in the last couple of days. We spent some days in our protected anchorage in the Southeast part of the island, with a bit of kiting, some more free diving, a birthday party for Vega’s daughter, a small celebration of our 1 year since we left and lots of swimming. The kids dove the anchor while we were in shallow water (about 3 meters): they were able to go down on their own, touch the anchor and even pull themselves down by the chain to the ground.
We are expecting a visit from our dear friend Damien in about 10 days and we are looking to get to Tahiti before him. So we moved to the South pass this morning, after a failed attempt of kiting with weak winds and getting a small cut on the leading edge (but not the bladder) of the kite. We had a very easy and pleasant navigation, with our gib out and no engine noise, doing 5 knots in 14 knots of wind at 140 degrees. We arrived at this other anchorage and found a good spot with about 10 meters of depth. As luck would have it, we managed to drop the anchor in a sandy spot but there must only be a small layer of sand covering an old floor of coral as the anchor didn’t settle in the sand. By diving the anchor, we saw it was caught by the tip on a small coral head. We put 40 meters of chain and the chain got directly caught in another coral head with a mushroom-like top where the chain found a way to enter. I dove the 10 meters to pull it out, free from the coral head. We then pulled back 20 meters of chain on the boat in order to attach a large fender to hold the chain above the boomies. About 50 black fish, I would guess groupers, gathered under our hull, hopefully feasting on the algae that started to develop in our brand new bottom job. Also, black tip sharks were lurking at the bottom. We had a quick lunch mainly composed of freshly baked bread then we went diving again to see the surrounding of our boat in case the wind shifts in direction and rotates us in another zone of the anchorage. We need to make sure no boomies could be a risk for Ubi. Nathalie, Naomie and I dove and we checked the surroundings. No immediate danger seen so we could admire the corals in the amazing visibility and lighting conditions. We could clearly see 10 meters below, we could distinguish the types of sharks swimming below us. I once separated from Naomie to dive deeper just behind a small-ish black tip. After I came back to the surface, Naomie pointed to me around 10 sharks that were also coming up from the abyss as if I had violated their swim area and now they would check the visitor out more closely. I asked Naomie to swim on my back. She wasn’t afraid or anything, but she is used to this swim formation which is often associated with the two of us diving deeper while she holds on to me by my shoulders. So she tapped me on my left shoulder, the agreed upon signal indicating that she was ready to dive, I tapped her hand back as a response and we performed a series of long dives near the shallower boomies. We also saw white tip sharks and another kind with a darker skin. We checked out the anchor and then got out of the water when Nathalie told us that she saw bigger sharks lurking.
We headed to the village by dinghy: a small community of a few houses, several bungalows for visitors, a series of dive shops and an internet snack bar on stilts above the very shallow water. Lots of black tips are roaming the area as the restaurant is throwing scrap food from time to time. After some internet and talking with some other boats we’ve met, we headed back to the boat for supper. We just received a bokchoi (?) cabbage from S/V Moljnir, a Canadian boat, we’ve met in La Cruz, Mexico. We gave half of this precious green vegetable to S/V Maple for their dinner.
Then we headed to S/V Vega for dessert and we talked about our coming plan to cross to Tahiti all together.
We are looking forward to spend more time in Fakarava, next time around as there is still a lot of things we want to do here. The weather hasn’t been great, which seems to not be normal, so we are hoping for a very sunny and windy next visit. But we are also glad to return to ‘civilization’, i.e. a place where you can buy eggs, fruits and vegetables, and discover yet another scenery. Damien will add a new twist to this place, and it will be very nice to experience our first Society island with him. So many good things to look forward to.
Free diving days – July 12th 2019 – Fakarava, Tuamotus archipelago
Fri Jul 12 2019
Over the last couple of days, we have been a lot in the water. The main attraction of Tetamanu, the south pass of Fakarava, is the many diving options that the pass offers. And this period is even more special as the groupers are regrouping here for their spawning: thousands of them gather around the pass at full moon. This event also brings sharks and their appetite. Walls of sharks trap the busy groupers, and the divers can witness the full circle of life in front of their mask.
We have been snorkeling a few times in the pass but we haven’t been sold yet on diving with tanks there. Maybe it is because many people are doing it and it makes it less special, or more artificial in a way. By snorkeling in the ebbing current, we see fields of coral and myriads of fish buzzing around as bees over a clover field. Our intrusion in their life is as long as our breadth allows us; otherwise, we fly over them and they care about our distant presence as much as bees would mind the clouds in the sky. In a sense, it feels like a more sensible visit in their world, where we don’t use technology or apparatus to force our way and stay at these depths. There is something to be said about doing something with only the power of our body and our mind. The attraction for us at this point is then the free diving and our progression in this activity. And we have plenty of water and underwater scenery under our boat to free dive, without needing to use the dinghy or fight the current at the pass. The bottom is at about 10 meters, with a gentle slope leading to a small motu with coconut trees. Coral heads have emerged here and there randomly, with interesting shapes, textures and colors. Among them, many fish are hanging out. Oftentimes we see black fin sharks and sometimes eagle spotted rays or sea turtles. At the surface, we clearly see this fauna and flora thanks to the unbelievably good visibility of the water. Only when we duck dive and go deeper, can we see them at eye level and this 2-D surface view becomes a rich 3-D world with tall structures, arches, holes and intricate passages through the corals: a great insentive to go down and hold our breath for longer. Nathalie found a way to better equalize her ears. It has been a limitation for her since our diving days but she discovers that she has an easier time to equalize with her snorkel out of her mouth. This nice trick broke her limit and she can now dive deeper. And with the techniques she learnt from the recent free-diving lessons she had a better technique to breath and be more hydrodynamic while descending. Today she went below 10 meters and touched our anchor. She did a comfortable control dive, stayed for a bit below and calmly came back up. It is fascinating how soothing and yet exhilarating the short trips below can be: a sensation of peace and quiet. A survival reflex pushes us back up: after a bit, the lungs have spams of contraction and, although our instinct is to rush back to open air, our mind can really be in control and suppress this urge to breathe now. This mind control is clearly a work in progress for us and we saw how yoga, breathing techniques, slow movement and even less caffeine are helping to push our limits in a gratifying fashion. We have another full day in this amazing place and we will continue to swim when we are not preparing the boat for the short two-day crossing. In Papeete, we won’t swim as much as the water clarity and sanity might not be at the same level as here. But in the nearby Moorea, there seems to be lots of great locations to swim, hike, play on the beach and in the waves and even maybe kite. We can’t wait !!!