Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Med Moored in Papeete and Marina Life

Hello :)

After two nights on passage, we had an uneventful trip through the Papeete channel to Marina Taina. We rejected their first offering of slip (too tight for us to manoever into) and now we are med moored near a number of friends along a big dock. It was stressful, but successful: a "Mediterranean mooring" has all the boats perpendicular to a long jetty, with anchors dropped out in the channel and lines holding the boats straight. Both Victoria and Johnathan were helpful - V kept B and J tied on fenders and then operated our "roving" fender. I put the anchor down, Max backed the boat in, then I tossed two stern lines to the marina staff. The boats only have a few feet between each other, so the tolerances are very tight (esp with 12+ kts of wind and lots of current). Very glad to be safely here.

Internet - we think we can get access here, but not likely til tomorrow.


More later,
Love,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/27/2014 2:19 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 17°17.00'S 148°00.00'W

Greetings!

There is hardly anything much to write about today ... nothing so idyllic as a bonfire or snorkelling or sharks ... just boat work and boat prep - the less than glamourous side of cruising in general and cruising in the tropics in particular :)

We are fortunate in our place in the marina - we are across the dock and three boats down from our Belgian friends, which means that there are four children to occupy each other rather than just two (a little taste of Berwick-like life as they make community with each other on the dock (blankets, crafts, snacks, playmobil) Max and I visited our yacht agent today; she has the paperwork to get our AIS through the courier, and we should get it from her in the next couple of days. She has also put us in touch with a refrigeration person and an exterminator ... thus the boat prep task of the day. We hope the fridge guy will come on Wed.

I was hoping to spend the day cleaning/stowing/preparing so that the exterminator could walk on board and say, "How on earth did you get bugs, your boat is so clean and tidy and well-swept!" Unfortunately, he did a pre-visit visit today and caught me in my normal state ... dishes in the sink, floors that needed sweeping, and cubbies that had spilled their contents on the benches in order to let someone find something inside them .. oh, well, such is life on a boat with a baby. Henri and his son were very nice, and gave us an idea of what to expect tomorrow. The son will do the treatment for us, and they basically suggested that we take the baby stuff and bedding away (the bedding was headed to the laundry anyway .. 800 French Polynesian Francs ($10)/load!) and make sure that any fresh food was put into plastic boxes or the fridge. Since our fresh produce at the moment consists of three pamplemousse and a few potatoes, this won't be too hard! They are quite confident that they can deal with our "little friends", but I will be so glad when it is over!!!

On the (very) bright side, Max did the seasonal windlass servicing today. When he did it (after a longer gap) in January with my dad, it took them a day and a half just to get the windlass apart (including much head scratching and the use of a borrowed "puller"). Today, Max had the windlass apart and back together again in less than an hour! Such a relief :) He also tackled our less-than-well-designed grey water system, which has a very flat hose run, and therefore has a habit of blocking itself up. With loads of high-pressure fresh water in this marina, he was able to force a stream of water through the shower drain, and it seems to be flowing much better now (of course, this required the saloon floor to be opened up and all the contents of the bilge storage compartment to come out, but at least this was after Henri's visit! The compartment was aired and closed again shortly after supper).

Max has quite a list of boat jobs to accomplish while we are here; my jobs are simpler - laundry and provisioning for the next three months. We are still comfortably using our stores from Mexico, but we will need more staples before New Zealand. The trick will be to figure out what we need and to not buy too much: they have strict rules about what we can bring in with us, and anything that can't come into the country goes overboard before we arrive (literally or figuratively).

Of course, the busier we are, the more likely it is that all the kids on the dock will gravitate to our boat. At one point (while the floor was open) we had three boys, three girls, and Benjamin aboard. Thankfully I was able to entice them back to the dock with the suggestion of swimming. It turned out that the pool at the marina was not the "marina pool" so that wasn't an option after all, but since the water is clear enough to see the pilings under the jetties, and we are on the end of the dock (without a neighbour on that side) the kids were soon convinced to jump in near the boat, then they realized it was at least as much fun to spray each other with the hose. Let's just say that that was the last we saw of them aboard for a while!

The Rainbow Looms have also been quite a hit with both boys and girls (it reminds me of Lego for older kids as they share supplies and ideas). I am now sporting a snazzy new ankle bracelet, with the promise of more to come :)

Despite thinking that I had nothing to say when I sat at the computer, I guess it has been a busy day after all :) I will close at this point, as we have an early start tomorrow to be sure our spaces are ready for the arrival of Henri's son mid-morning. Fingers crossed for a successful visit!

Love to all,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/29/2014 12:06 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 17°35.17'S 149°36.99'W
-----
At 7/29/2014 12:06 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 17°35.17'S 149°36.99'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Passage to Tahiti

Hello!

Saturday morning. We have had a bit of everything so far - winds as forecast ([6-10 kts from abaft the beam]- my watch) and winds *not* as forecast (25-27 kts - Max's watch, thank goodness). We are rollicking along now at a boat speed of around 7 kts [in fact I need to keep reefing to keep the boat speed under 8 kts. Max] (much faster than when I was on watch last night, and we were barely doing 3 kts!)

Will write more later, but thought you might like to know that all is well. We split the night in half - I took the 8pm watch, Max came up for a squall at 1245 and stayed on until 6am. He is sleeping now and I have the kettle on for hot chocolate for the kids, both of whom have also been awake since just after 6am. Must be getting soft...

Love to all,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/26/2014 6:28 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 17°07.00'S 147°05.00'W

Hello!

I started this email last night, around 9:30pm, having enjoyed benign conditions throughout my watch. In fact, it was so lovely that I decided to go back up to the cockpit to enjoy the tranquility, planning to write more later. At about 12:45, we were approached by a squall that stretched as far as the eye could see [in fact, as far as the radar could see as well. I had just finished shaking out the reefs in the main from the previous squall and checked the radar to see a big squall at the six nm scale. I was debating if I had room to avoid it under sail when I went to the twelve nm scale and saw that behind the first big squall was a squall line across the entire radar screen. Interesting in that the behind it did not ease and there was no barometric pressure change behind the squall line but it certainly did change the wind for the next 30 hours. Max]. This marked the beginning of what turned into a 24-hr "squall": even after the clouds went by, the winds stayed up around 18-22 kts, peaking at 27 kts during Max's night watch. Not so tranquil anymore!

So here we are on the evening of day two of our passage to Tahiti. After big winds all day (higher than forecast), they finally dropped around sunset (as forecast), and we are actually motoring now because we don't have enough wind to sail! We expect to arrive tomorrow around mid-day. We all found that our sealegs had gone walkabout during our month at anchor, so no one was doing anything extra today. (Everyone was fine, but we were a bit out of practice). I will do even more baking-ahead before our next big passage (muffins, soup, rice bowls, etc)

The seamanship award of the day yesterday went to Johnathan. He noticed a funny sound in the aft cabin just after the engine was started. Not long after we had come down to investigate, the boat gave a crazy lurch: we think that somehow the engine had put itself into gear, and drove hard onto the anchor chain. Everything seemed to be fine [other than a broken anchor roller and bent axle for the anchor roller], and we weighed our anchor shortly thereafter, but it was a bit unsettling to say the least!

Max & Johnathan had surveyed our exit route, but it was still dicey leaving the anchorage; there are coral heads all over the place. We escaped without harm, and left the atoll during a slack tide. It was delightfully anticlimactic :)

Johnathan also got the "proud mama" award nomination for yesterday: after the boat lurched forward, I left a crying Benjamin with the kids and went up to the anchor. This turned into weighing anchor, which meant that Benjamin did not get his "mama fix" before I left. No worries - Johnathan was there. He took him in his arms and jiggled him for a few minutes, and he went to sleep. He was so proud of him self when he came up to tell me about it a few minutes later - and I was proud of him!

Other than feeling a bit off because of the strength of the wind/seas (a good excuse for KD and other treats) today's passage has gone smoothly. Our autopilot is doing really well, both on wind-hold and course-hold. I am so grateful that Max installed all these new electronics when we were in Mexico!

You are probably wondering what on earth we do with Benjamin during the passage ... for the most part, someone holds him (usually me). Sometimes he is set down on the floor of the cockpit, with constant surveillance and the solid barrel-bolted companionway door in place. We will get a proper tether for him as soon as we can, then he (like V&J) will be tethered whenever he is the cockpit; in the meantime, he spends a lot of time in my wrap! Right now, he is sleeping on the starboard setee in the main saloon, so he is close if he wakes, but I have my hands free.

We haven't caught anything but our lures yet (not recommended - over an hour to detangle the lines!), but we are hopeful for tomorrow.

That's about it for now - love to everyone,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/27/2014 2:19 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 17°17.00'S 148°00.00'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, 26 July 2014

We are living in an aquarium

Greetings!

The wind stopped briefly today, and the water in the anchorage went completely still around the boat. Just around this time, we threw out our "overboard box" of kitchen scraps. I was in the galley preparing various foods and snacks for our upcoming passage when the others started to exclaim and to call me to "come and see - bring the camera". I grabbed Benjamin (no time for hat/sunscreen/clothes/wrap), and ran up the stairs. We were perched on top of a 30-foot deep aquarium! We had four sharks, numerous angel fish, a remora, and various other species (that you will have to ask the kids about, because I don't know them by name!) all exploring the scraps that Max & the kids were throwing overboard (with great splashing to get their attention) one item at a time. For the better part of half an hour, we tossed scraps and watched them circle (although they didn't eat much of what we gave them.) The water below was as clear as the air above, and even deep down to the bottom, we could see fish, coral, and sand. A short while later, a slight breeze picked up, the surface returned to its usual rippled state, and the view to the world below closed again. It was extraordinary.

Max & the big kids are camping ashore tonight - it is our last night in the Tuomotus. We thought that this island was so tiny that it would not have any creatures on it, but it turns out that not only are there rats, but they climb trees! (I am somewhat happy to be hanging out on Fluenta with my familiar bugs, soon to be eradicated by a professional). I understand that their supper of foil-baked marlin, foil-baked potatoes (chopped with enthusiasm by Johnathan), and canned corn was quite yummy. When we spoke on the radio, they said that they were too full to eat the canned fruit that I sent (but they might have room for the squares of chocolate...)

As for Benjamin, he has been sleeping most of the evening, so I have made yogurt, sugared/salted nuts, granola, pancake mix, and chocolate cake (V would like to decorate it tomorrow, but we will see!!) in preparation for our passage. I will set out the (mostly canned) ingredients in the morning for a big pot of soup. The saloon and aft cabins are stowed. I will help Johnathan with his room while Max sorts out the last-minute items (ie post-outboard/dinghy) on the aft deck, and we will plan to weigh anchor at 11am. The passage to Papeete is expected to take about two nights, with an arrival around mid-day on the third day. We have booked ourselves into the marina there to make our stop as efficient as possible (at 100 CPF/foot/day - we will keep our visit short!) and we will coordinate with our agent for the exterminator, the fridge guy, provisioning, and internet access (yes, you might even see some photos while we are there!)

Love to all,
Elizabeth
PS - We are enjoying our bananas from the man in the village at the north pass, but they are not as sweet as Marquesan bananas. We still have four pamplemousse, but they are starting to look a bit sad. It will be good to eat lots of fresh fruit & veg when we arrive!
-----
At 7/23/2014 5:56 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°31.11'S 145°28.55'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Friday, 25 July 2014

More Snorkelling and a campfire ashore

Hello!

The highlight of today for me is a three-way tie :)

*** It might be the hour or so that I spent snorkelling in/near the pass while Max & Benjamin drove the dinghy.

or

*** It might be the few minutes of stillness in our new Mexican hammock, hung between two coconut trees on the beach, just before a beautiful, cloudless sunset.

or

*** It might be the evening of family time sitting around a built-by-the-children campfire, later watching one child catch fish by hand, one child build his own fire, and one child sleep in my arms.

I don't even need to decide; I will just tell you about the day...

We are planning to head for Tahiti (Papeete) in two days (we have a weather window), so today was the last full "fun" day in the Tuomotus before we spend most of tomorrow doing passage preps. We decided to snorkel in the morning and spend the afternoon on the beach. Benjamin slept before we went, so he was happy hanging out with Max during the snorkelling. The kids and I had a long drift across the pass and then another along the edge of the reef. There weren't many sharks, but the water was incredibly clear and flat (just the way we hope it is when we leave in Fluenta). It was glorious to simply drift along, keeping my eyes open for kids and sharks and fish (and finally sharks & fish as the kids had enough before I did). In one area, we saw pairs of fish swimming gill-to-gill; Victoria saw them doing a spiral pattern. We think they might have been doing some kind of mating sequence. In another area, I saw big eyed fish stacked like firewood under a boat. At one point, the water was 70 feet deep, and we could see the bottom!

We dropped Johnathan at the beach after we went snorkelling because he wanted to build his own shelter and a ladder (with lashings), then Max, Victoria, and I headed to Fluenta for a quick lunch before returning to the beach armed with hot dogs, hammocks, and other necessities for an evening ashore. There wasn't much daylight left but we did manage to hang our hammock, and both of us had a few minutes to sit in it. "Peace & quiet" is a bit of a misnomer, but there can be a certain joy in listening to kids making the various sounds that kids make. Victoria was teaching Benjamin to splash in the shallows, and Johnathan was using his knife to make a club out of a palm frond. We were also serenaded by the sounds of some kind of ocean bird, and of course the constant pounding of the surf on the outer reef.

There was absolutely no wind in the late afternoon; everything was still and quiet, and we were the only ones on our beach. We realized that it was nice yesterday to share it with other cruising families, and also nice to enjoy it alone today; it strikes me that this is typical of cruising in general. Victoria & Johnathan started our fire, and we burnt such a big log that we ended up staying quite late on the beach: it was almost (cruisers') midnight (ie 9pm) when we returned to Fluenta. Max and the kids have determined that this will not be our last campfire here, however. Their plan is to stay ashore tomorrow night, so we will need to work efficiently to do both boat preps and shelter preps during daylight. The menu may be a little posher for our celebration - we still have some wahoo in the freezer that we can wrap in foil and cook in butter, and surely we have something desserty that we can cook on the fire. We might even try pottoes in foil again, perhaps cooking them for less than 90 min this time!

As we dinghied back to Fluenta, we realized how spoiled we have become - there are five other anchor lights shining on our side of the pass, and it feels a bit crowded. On the other hand, the other side of the pass seems to be offering a taste of the "bright lights, big city" that waits for us in Papeete: several huge yachts are at anchor, and they are ablaze with lights.

Anyway, now you have a taste of our lovely day; I hope things are lovely wherever you are as well.
Love,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/23/2014 5:56 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°31.11'S 145°28.55'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Diving (no sharks) and a bonfire

Hello!

Max and the kids got their exercise today diving on Fluenta, using the last of the air in Max's tank in anticipation of having it refilled at the dive shop tomorrow. Both kids love to breath-hold dive on the hull and rudder to help clean away the barnacles and growth that can slow us down on passage (we sure don't tell them that it is work not play!) It was with a certain relief that they finished with no sharks ambling over to check out the proceedings. Even though they seem benign, it is kind of like having bears in your back yard that want to come to sit on your porch. According to Max's dive master, there has only been one shark attack here in recent memory, and that was of a local fisherman who was cleaning fish and reached into the water to pick up a piece of steak that he had dropped. The shark thought he was stealing food and expressed his displeasure. That being said, nervous or not, we will probably go to the pass again tomorrow and drift-snorkel with them!

As Max and the kids were preparing to dive, we had a visitor. One of the other cruisers is a teacher in her "other life" and she had mentioned during the pearl visit last week that she had some books she likes to read with kids. She had come over to read to them! We all learned a bit about wombats, dingoes, koalas, and other creatures native to Australia. I love watching how our kids glow when they are engaged with an adult who is not one of their parents :)

Victoria and I had some fun this afternoon. In preparation for one of "my four-day pedicures" (Day 1 - remove polish. Day 2 - shape nails. Day 3 - apply new polish. Day 4 - tidy everything away ... ), my bundle of polishes had been sitting on the table for the last few days (I had made it as far as day 1 a few days ago). "Give me your hands," she said. "Ok," the new me said (the old me would have refused and told her that it was lunch time and I had chores to do; lovely mother-daughter moment would have been lost to the mists of "might have beens"). After several very carefully applied layers were completed, I found myself with five different nails on each hand - one each of brown (earth), neon green (grass - colour selected by Johnathan for Victoria's last birthday), orange center/blue spots (flower), blue (sky), and orange dot/blue surroundings (universe). I certainly wouldn't have produced such a creative manicure myself! Who knows what my eventual pedi will look like :)

We all went ashore in the late afternoon for a sunset bonfire. When we arrived, there were already folks there from two kid boats. One boat has a French family who have been living in Tahiti for the last 15 years (along with his parents who have come here to visit them for a month). The other has a family who, in their own words, is half Spanish, half Italian, and half French (and who speak English after a few years in the US). The second family has three big girls (12, 10 & 8) and a small boy (4), so it was fun to speak to a mom with similar experiences as ours. After meeting Benjamin, her kids have started asking why they can't have another baby too :) This beach is lovely, so we are planning to spend most of the afternoon there tomorrow, and maybe even get some nice photos as the sun is setting on the other side of the lagoon.

On the food front, I successfully made yogurt last night. My first two batches had turned out to be quite spotty/lumpy, so this time I poured the hot milk through a tea strainer before I added it to the starter, and it turned out to be a much smoother consistency. Without a yogurt maker on board, I heat the milk powder (400 mL) and water (900 mL) almost to a boil, then cool it to 110-120F. This just nicely fills a 1L mason jar. Months ago (back when we had wifi) I read a blog post by Estrelita where Livia described using their pressure cooker to cure the yogurt. Of course, I don't have this post to refer to now, so I decided to add hot water (approx 125F) to my pressure cooker to a depth of about 6+", set the lidded jar of milk/starter in it, cover the pot and wrap the whole thing with a towel. Since I started late in the evening, I left it only the minimum time (4 hr), then stirred it (to stop the action of the cultures) and put it in the fridge overnight. It was lovely and thick when I checked it, so I think we have our technique and recipe (thanks to SV Litorina in Tahanea) that I will just tweak from now on. Fun. I am looking forward to the time when various from-scratch foods are second nature to make each week (yogurt, bread, granola, dried fruit, etc). None of them are hard, but they all take some planning, coordination and practice.

Dinner was much less homemade: wieners on roasted on sticks and eaten in wraps with ketchup. We were going to be healthy and eat sweet potatoes roasted in foil, but we left them too long (ie the whole evening ... we found them when we were putting the fire out!) and decided just to throw the resultant charcoal to the fish :)

We are starting to look ahead to our post-French Poly itinerary. We can go to NZ either via the Southern Cooks or the Northern Cooks. As we read accounts from other cruisers in the various compendia and cruising guides, each seems lovely, so somehow we will wade through all of this information, throw in a bit of intuition, weather forecasting, and scheduling, and come up with our plan for the early fall. As you may have seen on our blog, we are hoping that someone will jump aboard with us in the November time frame to sail from Tonga to NZ with us, as this has the potential to be a bouncy passage. It will be fun to see who joins us :) (Let me know if you have someone in mind).

Anyway, that pretty much sums up a lovely winter day (27 deg C) in French Polynesia.

[Maintenance update: not much to report. As always, there are unplanned arisings. The recent case was a strong chemical/paint smell in the cabin. We have an extensive collection of sprays and whatnot (what at work would have been called the POL Locker but alas not up to a standard that would have passed an AFSO inspection. Sadly considering I was at one point a Aviation Fluid Services Officer). After gaining access to the POL locker the smell got stronger and then I started finding the trail of black goo. Turns out a can of belt dressing let loose creating a lovely slick of toxic gunk. All cleanable but not what I had on my maintenance schedule. At about the same time we noticed that the fresh water pump seemed to be straining. Normally we replace the water filter every six months but was clogging already after three months. Acess is again a pain but not complicated. Thankfully we also stocked up on filters in Mexico. What was on my maintenance schedule was the every six week topping up our almost 1000 amp-hour house battery bank with distilled water. Not a complicated job but time consuming as boat disassembly and boat yoga is required to fill the 24 cells (eight x six volt batteries with three cells each). We also have two six volt batteries for the windlass bank and a 12V start battery. Liz mentioned the hull cleaning which we try to do monthly as well as checking the prop and shaft zincs. It was a treat to do the cleaning with the SCUBA tank than freediving. The inexpensive Comex paint seems to be working much better than the expensive Trinidad SR paint we had applied in Anacortes. Max]

Happy summer and love to all,
Elizabeth
-----

At 7/23/2014 5:56 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°31.11'S 145°28.55'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Diving and Snorkelling at Tetamanu Pass (Fakarava)

Greetings!

Today's email is a combined effort ... I will give you the general update, and Max will fill you in on the details of the diving that he did here.

Yesterday morning was an early one for Max ... he left the boat just after 0615 to go diving. Early morning is the dive master's favourite time of day as the light is supposed to be the best. The kids and I had a quiet Sunday morning (I had a moment of "Holy Smokes, it is Sunday again!" and put on my "Sunday Music" playlist. We don't make it to any kind of church, but I play my "soul music" for everyone as often as I remember!) Again, with care of the soul in mind, I left the kids reading, and meditatively cleaned the cabin, enjoying my own company. It was so much more peaceful than nagging them to help, creating angst, and still doing the whole job myself. Even Benjamin cooperated by sleeping on the bunk where the big kids were reading. It was lovely to do the basic chores that tend to get missed when we are coming and going - tidying, sweeping, dishes - and everyone enjoyed the space when I was finished. Breakfast was a Sunday Brunch of corn pancakes.

In the afternoon, we dinghied over to the little beach by the resort where the sharks like to swim. There were four local children swimming and carrying on when we got there. Neither they nor the sharks paid each other any attention. As Max describes below, we took his diving gear, and the kids got a chance to blow some bubbles in the shallow water. It is still rather surreal to be standing waist deep near the beach, then put your face in to watch the sharks swimming around! I was able to join Max under water because the "boss lady" of the resort (the same one who taught us about coconuts the day before) came over (twice) and offered to hold Benjamin for me. On the second time, I said yes! He stayed with her, walking about and watching people for a good 20 min, and only cried when she let someone else hold him (and a bit of baguette fixed that!) As the afternoon wore on, two other kid boats worth of dinghies joined us on the beach, so after a little play and a chat, we all headed back to the anchorage. There are two ways to get there - the long way (following the channel around the reef and into the anchorage from the 'back') and the "short" way (crossing the channel, hugging the beach, and walking the dinghy across the really shallow part). All three families took the "short" way back, and it was quite funny to see everyone walking and towing their dinghy. We used the long way today!

This seems a good spot to inject Max's dive summary ...

***

Diving.

We talked to both dive shops but only Topdive would accept my ACUC card. I received the ACUC certification when I completed the Navy's Ships Diving Officer course many years ago. I do not know if ACUC even still exists. I dove as a Ships Diving Officer for HMCS PRESERVER and while at RNAS Culdrose but have not done a lot of sports diving. Although we carry a set of diving gear and two tanks onboard Fluenta we do not have a compressor so diving is reserved for hull maintenance and anchor retrieval that is too difficult to do free diving unless we are lucky to sailing with a boat with a compressor (miss you guys in SV Sweet Dreams !). {Liz note - ie Max still generally dives for work but not for fun!}

I did three dives over two days in the Tetamanu Pass of Fakarava. All three had elements of drift diving and I saw lots (and lots and lots) of sharks. On the second dive we stayed stationary near a canyon where the current is fairly quick and the sharks stay relatively still over the ground but with good water flow. In these spots you could likely see 50 or more sharks at any one time and there were three waves of sharks. All quite close but they seemed unconcerned with our presence. Biologists were here a few weeks ago and counted 650 sharks in the passage itself. On the last dive we used Nitrox to increase our bottom time at depth. Again, lots of sharks but also large schools of barracuda, some Napoleon fish and one huge triton shell. I took my new toy for the passage, a Go Pro camera, on the dives and took many pictures so some will end up on the blog once we have internet.

Since I dove with the local shop they will fill my dive cylinders for a reasonable cost. However, the tank is not fully empty as I only used a bit of air doing the epoxy "cap" to hold the skeg bolts in place, so copying from SV Nautilus I took the kids diving. We kept it very simple. They used my spare regulator from my tank and we just sat on the bottom two to four feet below the surface and watched the sharks swim around us. Liz had a chance to go with my two and left Benjamin with a Tuamotuan lady ashore for a few minutes to sit on the bottom and check out the sharks. Again, the sharks are most unconcerned with our presence in their domain. I went for a snorkel along the edge of the pass as well and saw another large Napoleon fish.

Today, the kids and I did some drift dives snorkelling along the reef with Liz and Benjamin manning the safety boat as we bounced along towards the ocean. Again, an incredible diversity of fish and lots of black tip sharks. Johnathan went for an extra dive and saw one Napoleon fish in the distance but were unable to swim against the current far enough to get close. Perhaps tomorrow.

***

Back again ... so yes, Benjamin and I manned the safety boat while Max and the big kids swam along the current. It is a bit nerve wracking to follow three members of your family, not get too far away and not run them down when you pick them up, all while paying attention to the movement of the current. It was especially stressful because I am I am out of practice as Johnathan tends to be the one to drive us around these days!

Before going diving, we had a marathon Harry Potter day here today. We watched the third movie last night, and both kids read hundreds of pages in the seventh book today; they finished within 10 min of each other this evening! It was lovely and quiet; they each had one of the Kobos (we bought two in the fall) and there was no argument over whose turn it was with the book the way there is with one copy of a paper book!

Benjamin is a fan of pretty much any flavour. Lunch today was a chili-bean-chicken-corn soup (from cupboard to imagination to pot all in the space of 20 min), to which I had added extra hot sauce to my portion. When Benjamin started making his "I want what you have" sounds, I started giving him one bit on the end of the spoon at a time. He gobbled it up! The funniest part of today, however, had to be dinner time. Dinner tonight was a Wahoo fillet from our previous passage. {Supposedly the fish is good in this atoll, but we have elected not to take chances, as there seems to be some fish from some areas that are not safe. We will fish again when we are on passage.} Since our little "high chair" only mounts on the saloon table, when we eat in the cockpit, we often sit Benjamin beside us on the bench and give him a towel as a mat to make the cleanup easier. He quickly decided that he was done sitting still on the mat beside me, so Max took a turn. We don't have much in the way of recognizable language from him yet ... but the meaning of the loud grunts he makes when he sees food that we haven't yet shared is pretty clear. Max fed him for a minute with his grownup fork, then even that was not enough for Benjamin - he had to have the fork in one hand and fistfuls of rice in the other. He was like a little bird that hadn't been fed in a month! The whole family was laughing, as was Benjamin. It is such a delight to have a new little person in the mix! (And it is times like these when it is nice to be able to turn on the salt water pump and spray the entire eating area to do the cleanup :) )

If we were closer, you wouldn't need all this detail - you would come for dinner and watch Benjamin for yourself! That not being the case, this little note will have to suffice, and allow you to join us for dinner (and diving and living aboard) vicariously :)

Love to you all,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Seeking Crew for Tonga to New Zealand

We will be looking for an additional crew member for the Tonga to New Zealand leg in November. The advert for the passage is below. if anyone is interested:

SV Fluenta is looking for one crew member to accompany them on the 1100 nm passage from Tonga to New Zealand in November 2014. Fluenta is a Stevens 47 cutter with a family of five onboard: Max and Elizabeth and their children who will by then be aged eleven years, nine years and eleven months.

Details on their journey so far and on Fluenta herself can be found on their blog: SV-Fluenta.blogspot.ca

Crew duties on passage will consist primarily of standing watches in rotation with Max and Elizabeth although he or she is expected to help with any other boat chores as with the rest of the crew. Watchstanding duties will be tailored to the crew's experience and competence and the expected conditions.

The intention is depart Tonga in November when there is a favourable weather window. Fluenta has engaged Bob McDavitt as their weather router. If conditions are suitable, Fluenta will stop in Minerva Reef enroute. The intended destination is Whangarei but Fluenta may check into Opua if that makes sense at the time. Both are close to Auckland.

Fluenta will cover all costs onboard and as well as any restaurants ashore and any visa costs to enter New Zealand . The crewmember will be responsible for costs to get to and from Fluenta.

Crew accommodations will be the V-berth of the boat. However, if conditions make sleeping in the V-berth uncomfortable then there are also two sea berths available in the saloon. Fluenta is a non-smoking boat and is "dry" on passage (other than perhaps champagne at the halfway mark for example).

The Stevens 47 is a 1980's Sparks and Stephens design with a modified fin keel and skeg hung rudder. With her significant ballast ratio and moderate displacement-to-weight ratio she is a sea kindly passagemaker allowing reasonably swift passages.

Max holds a RYA Yachtmaster Ocean (with Master of Yachts 200GT commercial endorsement) certificate and is a Canadian Yacht Association (CYA) Advanced Cruising Instructor. Elizabeth is also RYA and CYA trained and has sailed over 10,000 sea miles. Both have completed various sea survival courses and Advanced Medical First Responder Training. Max's sailing CV can be found on the Linkedin website.

Whilst it will be impractical to conduct a formal sailing course during the time period, instruction in passagemaking will be provided as much as is practical and desired by the crew.
-----
At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Monday, 21 July 2014

Diving in the South Pass

Greetings!

Benjamin is still awake (crawling around the cabin, showing me just how baby-proofed we are not!) so this will be a short note for a pretty neat day.

Fakarava South Pass is famous for its diving - water clarity, sharks, fish, and coral all combine to make for an extraordinary environment (thus the UNESCO designation). We visited both dive shops this morning, and arranged for Max to dive this afternoon with one of them (while getting the rest of our questions about snorkelling answered as well). Armed with times and locations for the afternoon, we headed back (cross-country as it turned out) to Fluenta for lunch. By cross country I mean that there are wide patches between the pass and the anchorage where the depth was about 12-18", requiring us to lift the outboard and paddle.

Returning to the pass after lunch, we beached the dinghy on a little sheltered beach that was accessed by passing through a very narrow gap in the reef (carefully marked with two pieces of rebar sticking out of the coral). During the slack tide, half a dozen or more sharks come near the shore. In waist-deep water, we just put on our masks and put our faces in the water to watch them. They seemed to have no interest in tourists for dinner at all. Max's dive was outside the pass where they could swim with loads of fish and about 100 sharks. It is rather surreal, especially because no matter how safe I have been told they are, I am still nervous of them. {These sharks are about 3-5 ft long, with a pale yellow colour and black tips on their fins, etc. We were told today that biologists have recently counted the population and there are 650 in the pass, not counting the ones outside the pass). I will leave it to him to tell you more about the diving.

Once the kids had had their fill of swimming with the sharks, their attention moved ashore where two resort staff members (and one worker-guest - he is there for 2 months and is helping out for a few hours each day to earn his keep) were husking coconuts. Since babies and children are great icebreakers, I asked Johnathan if he wanted to go watch. In a combination of English and French, we learned to husk a coconut using a stake in the ground, then Johnathan was allowed to try. Once they realized how interested Johnathan was in all things coconut, they couldn't help us enough to learn about them and to try them. In the space of 20 min we had tried a drinking coconut, a "fruit" coconut (which is entirely edible, including much of the husk), a hard coconut (including a demo of the rasper they use for shredding it to make coconut milk). This required two of the people to go to different sides of the resort to find just the right coconuts for us as well. Fun!

It was late afternoon as we were heading back to Fluenta. After navigating the shallow part of the journey (paddling and at one point walking ... it was reminiscent of the Wood Islands flats when the tide was mostly out, except that the bottom was hard coral instead of mud) we thought we were home free when - BANG - we found another coral head (tower) in the anchorage itself! Thankfully, we were still going quite slowly, so the dingy stopped short and we were surprised but fine. In the lowering sunlight, we hadn't seen the coral head before we were literally on top of it. We were hardly a chain-length from two boats that were anchored beside us. Thank goodness we didn't find that coral with Fluenta! (And thank goodness the bottom of our dinghy is aluminum - these coral heads would likely puncture a rubber-bottomed dinghy) We rocked the dinghy off the coral and continued on our way. Needless to say, our foredeck crew kept a very vigilant watch as we returned to Fluenta!

Anyway, that is all the excitement of the day. Benjamin has gone to sleep in my lap, and the morning will be early (Max's dive rendez-vous is at 0645) so I will sign off here.

Much love to everyone,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W
-----
At 7/18/2014 4:41 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°20.29'S 145°29.77'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Fakarava South Pass

Greetings!

We left our solo anchorage this morning at around 1015 for the 2-hr motor transit to the south pass anchorage. Thank goodness we left when we did and arrived at noon, while the sun was high in the sky. The anchorage is a hard-won prize after a journey of about a mile through a coral field. Even with waypoints from another cruiser (once again, Soggy Paws), and standing on the bow for a better view of the coral, it was still challenging to navigate the last stretch. Were we ever relieved when we had our anchor set! We had radioed our Belgian friends on SV Nautilus from the channel, and we ended up anchoring right beside them, which was nice, since they are leaving early tomorrow morning for Papeete (Pap-ee-et-eh). After lunch, the kids went ashore with them, then we followed a short while later. After the trip to the beach, the girls came back to Fluenta to play cards (and to play with Benjamin) and the boys went to Nautilus to play with PlayMobil - those toys have been around almost forever, and they never fail to capture the kids' attention. When we went to take their daughter back, within a couple of minutes all four children were deep into the play.

We have found yet another beautiful spot - turquoise water, white sand beach, and glorious sunshine. It feels like we could spend weeks in this one anchorage. This pass into the atoll is world-famous (designated by UNESCO) because of its shark population and Napoleon fish (I think). In fact the interplay between the sharks and the groupers was filmed during the last full moon (before we got here). We will go to the pass/beach tomorrow morning and see what we can find; our friends showed us some spectacular photos of both sharks and Napoleon Fish tonight. Unfortunately the 90-day clock is ticking, so we will move along within the week.

Given the beauty of this place, I guess it is not surprising that many more cruisers have discovered it this year as compared to other years. Usually there are only a small handful of boats in the anchorage, but right now, even towards the end of the season, there are a dozen boats. In fact, it is possible that we are enjoying the last season of anchoring here: we heard this afternoon that by next year, people will have to anchor in the SE corner of the atoll, about 7 nm away. It is sad that not only are there more boats, but some of the sailors have not practiced good stewardship (anchoring on coral, leaving garbage for the locals to dispose of, taking food without asking) which has likely escalated any changes to the regulations. I am glad that we have made it here now.

That's all the news for a day on the move. It is nice to be in one spot for a few days. And if you are wondering about getting your Ben-fix, we should have internet in Papeete, so we can upload some photos then :)

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

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Deserted Anchorage.

Greetings from an absolutely deserted anchorage :)

The kids spent most of the morning asking if they could empty the "overboard bucket" (ie scrap bucket). This is most unusual behaviour, but it was because there were some shark sucker fish living under the boat, and it turns out that they love table scraps, especially weevilly cereal (guess what I found in the cupboard this morning?), pamplemousse rinds, and soggy bread (carefully mushed by Benjamin). Every time someone would put some thing over the side up to a dozen of them would emerge to take their share. Fun to watch; Victoria even managed to get a quick video clip of them swarming around.

We left the village of Rotoava in the late morning to head south. We had a couple of anchorages (from the Soggy Paws Tuomotus Compendium) we copied into our chartplotter, and we figured that we would decide as we went how far we would go. As we passed the first one, we had good weather, good light, a sleeping baby, and quiet kids ... so we continued on to the next one. Every hour that we travelled today is an hour in the bank that we don't have to travel tomorrow.

When we arrived at our anchorage, for the first time in a long time, there was no one already here. We are well south of the village, so there are no lights ashore, and there is not another boat to be seen in either direction. We are in an empty South Pacific anchorage, with flat water, steady wind (10 kts) and palm trees overhanging the beach. Now this is the stuff that dreams are made of!

After a couple of attempts, we found a nice sandy patch to anchor in, so we have gotten by without buoys tonight. Since we had kept our dinghy hoisted on our side for the transit (where we put it every night) it was easy to launch and go ashore for a little stretch and exploration. The shoreline is alternately white coral sand and black coral "cement" (a bit like a moonscape). We were met by lots of crabs scuttling around under the trees (not the huge coconut crabs we saw last week, but still pretty fierce!), a couple of salamanders, and loads of tiny biting specs (bo-bos or no-see-ums or no-nos - call them what you like, they are unfriendly). There is a little swamp just behind the beach, so we weren't too surprised to get bitten. The water is so clear that we didn't need to snorkel to see the detail of the coral or the fish (or the black-tip reef shark that swam by; nice to see it from the safety of the dinghy!). It was also so calm that we could see the ripples spreading from the tail fins of the fish as they scooted around the coral by the beach. We stayed ashore long enough to find a coconut and have a little walk, then we sent the kids around the little point to the next sandy stretch and we left in the dinghy to pick them up.

The funny thing was that due to the time of day and the angle of the sun, the coral heads were only clearly visible *after* we were almost on top of them, so we paddled around to the other beach (about 300 yards), giving the kids time to wonder where on earth we were! This beach has coral unlike any we have yet seen - spiky growths that look like antlers gone wild. Unlike some places in the world, most of the coral here is pretty monochromatic (white/beige with the odd splash of purple).

Speaking of the sun and its angle, I realized today that it has turned out to be a lucky fluke to have chosen to start at the north end of the atoll and work our way south: the sun is behind us for most of the day, making this journey much easier than it would be if we were transiting north, with the sun ahead of us. With the light behind us, it is easy to see the changes in water colour that indicate shallows and reefs. We were in a charted channel, but still, it is nice to have all the factors in our favour as not all of the shallows are marked! I think that in any other atolls where we have the choice, we would head for the north end first.

We have initiated another attack on our unwelcome residents tonight. Alisa from Galactic suggested we try boric acid tablets. Even better she *gave* us some to place around the galley and other areas where they congregate! {They have been cruising for almost eight years, and have not had any issues with our bugs; any time there has been a sign of them, they have been quick off the mark to eradicate them, and that has been the end of the problem. I had read that this was the only approach, but now I have lived the result of being too soft-hearted in the beginning!} We are going to look into getting rid of them for good in Papeete, as NZ has very strict rules about bringing any pests into the country, and we want to keep our entry as simple as possible. I am gaining grim satisfaction sitting here and watching the bugs show interest in the pellets - they have stepped nimbly around any of the other powdered poisons we have laid out for them , and they seem to be attracted to these. Here's hoping. Live and learn!

Anyway, from our starry, beautiful, buggy anchorage, we wish you good night and send you our love,

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

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Friday, 18 July 2014

Enjoying Fakarava

Greetings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love to all,
Elizabeth
-----

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

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Passage to Fakarava.

Hello from the nav table of our little sailing vessel,

It feels good to be writing to you from a vessel under way. We are having a lovely, quiet passage, which is a nice surprise, because the forecast suggested that we would be living with engine noise the entire way. We have had between 3-10 kts of wind, placid seas, clear skies, and few squalls. The full moon adds its own dose of cheerfulness to this night watch. These are the images from the "South Pacific Brochure" that we all have in our minds!

This passage almost started yesterday (12 Jul); we spent the morning preparing for sea (lashing Trickle on the foredeck, hoisting the outboard engine up to its position on the "pushpit" (the metal railing around the stern), lifting the dinghy onto its davits on the stern, securing everything above and stowing everything down below (a bigger job in this anchorage than in Nuku Hiva because the calmness let us leave more things out on tables & counters ...), and cooking soup for dinner). Our scheduled departure through the pass was around 3:30, so we weighed anchor just after 2:30 to be sure of plenty of time in hand (we don't know til we lift our anchor that it is going to come up easily through the coral, despite two buoys keeping the chain off the ground, and we also never know when Benjamin is going to need attention...). It was a short transit to the pass, but that is where our plan changed.

Our Belgian friends were leaving just ahead of us, and as they went through the pass, we could see them pitching significantly, and their boat seemed to disappear as they went through the troughs of the waves. Thus, when we got to the "go/no-go" point, we considered our options and elected to return to the anchorage. Pass exits & entrances need to be coordinated carefully with the tidal currents, and in addition there are conditions where the wind/tide/swell combine to make it a boiling, choppy mess - such was the case yesterday. When we radioed our friends to let them know we were staying another night, they said that it had been like a "washing machine" for them; I was glad to be safely at anchor! We were especially glad when we watched two French boats leave a while later; by then, the pass was really a mess, and they pitched violently as they went through.

Since dinner was already sitting in a pot on the stove, Victoria & I made the muffins that I hadn't had time to make during the day, then we had early dinner/bedtime, and did the pass-exit "take 2" this morning (13 Jul). Today, all we had to do was have breakfast and leave; all the preparations were done yesterday :)

The result of this minor change in plan was that we had a beautiful day sail instead of an just an overnight passage, and we had more time to transit (24 hrs instead of 18 hrs) in order to be at the next pass at slack tide, so we have elected to go to the north pass of Fakarava rather than the south pass (about 30 nm further). There is a small village there, so we will (hopefully) be able to buy some fruit & veg (depending on when the supply ship comes this week!) but we won't do any major shopping until Papeete, which is our next destination after we explore this atoll.

There is such a difference in the enjoyment factor when the seas are lovely instead of short and choppy! Last night's passage would have been a bit faster & bouncier. Today, we had pretty much perfect conditions: light winds (but enough to sail), and seas mostly calm with some wide ocean swells. We sailed with no reefs all day/night. The kids love to point out how we are doing; like the old salt that she is becoming, Victoria takes note each time she goes by the companionway instruments: "Doing well. 4.5 kts in 6 kts of wind. Very good."

We had a little bit of excitement as we changed watches around midnight - lights on the horizon for the first time in ages! Traffic! It was a big ship on a steady bearing that didn't answer us on the radio, so we altered course to be sure of keeping our distance (the first rule of the road being collision avoidance, regardless of who has official "right of way"). It is always reassuring to see lights moving across our bow instead of remaining at a steady angle. We are now moving placidly through the night, with about 15nm to go before the pass; the winds are lighter, and we have time to spare, so we are just ghosting along at about 2-3 kts. Since the earlier we get to the entrance, the longer we will have to loiter (bobbing in place, hove-to, or motoring in big donuts ...) we are not in a rush. On many levels, it feels good to have plenty of time.

On the homefront, both kids continue to be nose-deep in their books (Victoria is now reading Black Beauty, and Johnathan is working on Huckleberry Finn; we continue to read The Lord of the Rings aloud). Benjamin is getting more mobile each day. He loves to stand at the foot of the companionway; the vertical bars are just his size to grip, and the steps seem to be a tasty diversion in his diet!) He has also started staying asleep when I lay him down ... this means that he is taking the odd nap on a bunk instead of in the carrier, so I am feeling a bit more independent :)

So... we are well, we are underway, and we are looking forward to exploring a new atoll. Fakarava is one of the larger atolls, so it has more traffic (tourists come here for dive holidays). It also has pearl farms and the possibility of pass diving with a group (for Max). We will keep you posted :)

Much love to all,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/14/2014 1:37 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°39.66'S 145°02.07'W
-----
At 7/14/2014 2:58 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 15°58.00'S 145°30.00'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Grey and Windy.

Greetings :)

We left home for many reasons, but one of the "benefits" of coming to the tropics was supposed to be continuous sunny weather ... it turns out that this is not the case! (Of course, I knew this, but today has been a good reminder). We have had lots of greyness, rain, and squalls over the last two days ... it felt more like NS in summer than a tropical holiday location. [A low pressure system is in the process of passaging to the south of us. Friends further west in FP have had gusts to 30 kts and lots of rain when the front passed]

We thought we would do the pass dive again yesterday, hoping to see the Manta Rays again, but when we got there, it was really choppy & windy, so we came back to our anchorage, where there is a reef a very short distance from the boat, and snorkelled there. Much calmer! There were loads of fish, but to make a list, I would have to wake the children and ask them what they saw, as they have better memories than I do for all things fish-related :)

We have had a nice couple of days of socializing with our Belgian friends: drinks on Fluenta last evening, while the four kids watched a movie together (even Benjamin got a little screen time, hanging out with the big kids); a beach visit this afternoon (unfortunately we timed our adventure perfectly with a squall, so there were some soggy children needing to run around by the time we got to shore - V&J had started out paddling the kayak, but we towed them once they started moving backwards...); drinks on their boat this evening (the girls watched The Sound of Music on Fluenta, while the boys watched another movie together on their boat). We are all making plans to go to Fakarava next, possibly as early as tomorrow afternoon.

The beach near this anchorage is quite windswept and scrubby. Johnathan managed to harvest some coconuts, so we will bring them to enjoy on our passage. Max and Victoria kayaked around the little motu, which had a few exciting moments when the current was against them near the pass. Victoria was quite excited to tell me about it when they were through.

As of this afternoon's expedition, a gecko named Spotty has joined Charcoal the Salamander. We don't see either very often, but every time I think that Charcoal has expired, he shows up somewhere. I hope they are going to enjoy our culinary offerings (bugs, bugs, bugs!) I have heard of geckos living happily on sailboats for quite a while, so I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a fun relationship.

That being all the news, and in preparation for being on an overnight passage tomorrow, it is time to call it a night now.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/10/2014 7:52 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°50.83'S 144°41.77'W
-----
At 7/10/2014 7:52 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°50.83'S 144°41.77'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Friday, 11 July 2014

Back across the lagoon

Greetings!

After our campers returned home this morning, we did engine checks and left right away for the other side of the lagoon; the wind is expected to clock around to the NE tonight and tomorrow, and the pass-dive anchorage is better protected in these conditions. Our anchor is within a few feet of our last anchorage; when Max dove to check the anchor, he could still see the trench from the last time we were here. Guess the water doesn't have much movement in this part of the atoll. [We left in the morning while the sun was at a good angle for spotting the coral heads. The water in the lagoon goes from being over a 100 feet deep to about 3 feet deep in about the two boat lengths so we always have someone on the bow with polarised sunglasses looking for reefs.]

Having met the coconut crab just before bedtime, and having watched the little rats scurry around all evening, Johnathan decided that since his head was the size and texture of a coconut, perhaps he would like to sleep in a hammock, and not on the sand! [I think he would have still slept on the ground again but when Victoria decided to sleep in the Belgian tent with the other two kids I suggested that he could have the small hammock which he agreed that the hammock would be more prudent.] Max slept in the big hammock, Johnathan slept in the little hammock, and Victoria slept in the Belgian tent. I believe I use the word sleep rather loosely, as I am not sure how much they got :) [No rain this time but more rats scurrying around I think.]

Our wind generator is happy, which makes us happy ... it is producing a constant amps in 15 kts of wind, yet the motus (pieces of the circumference of the atoll that we anchor beside) protect us from the swell, and the boat is pretty steady. {We have seen lots of boats with two wind-generators, but we only had one pole to mount it to, which would have made the second one *very* expensive). We haven't walked around this motu yet, but we poked our nose out into the ocean when we snorkelled on the pass last week. It is very pretty, but not quite as pretty as the SE corner.

Our passage (approx 1.5 hrs) was uneventful, but we are always relieved to have made it safely across the coral field. There are just enough reefs that are not marked on our chart to make us appreciate the ones that are!

Our Belgian friends also changed anchorages, so they took Johnathan with them when they went snorkelling. When I snorkel, I am still at the stage of saying, "oh, what pretty fish," and that is about the extent of my discernment for one type vs another. On the other hand, Johnathan came back today describing his trip, and named about a half dozen species by name that he had either seen or noted by their absence! It amazes me what they have learned just by osmosis. On the same vein, Victoria stayed back on the boat to help Max install some lights. Before she started, she asked me to help her draw a diagram for a solar light she would like to build whenever we have a house again, then she proceeded to help Max with wiring and crimping of a little light above the winches in our dodger. Once back from snorkelling, Johnathan helped Max put the buoys on the anchor chain, then free-dove with him to help him clean some of the underwater surfaces of the boat. He was quite proud to be able to say when he came back aboard that he had cleaned a good part of the rudder! "I like doing hard jobs" he told us :)

Benjamin is neither re-wiring the boat nor identifying much in the way of wildlife; however, he is very nearly crawling, and is making lots of "language sounds" (gurgling in the back of his throat and jabbering on in conversation with himself are two of his favourite pastimes). Every stage is cute, but this one is very cute!

I have yogurt on the boat again! The Swedish family brought some to our goat roast, and when I asked her about it, she was kind enough to offer me some starter. We made our first batch yesterday. It had a bit of an unusual taste, so I will tweak the recipe next time (the trick to good cruiser yogurt seems to be lots of full-fat milk powder; I used 400 mL of milk powder to 900 mL of water, and it perfectly filled one large (1L) mason jar. I sat the jar in my pressure cooker with a water bath to help keep in the heat, and then wrapped the covered pot with two towels. The yogurt cured while I went to the beach, but it probably took about 6 hours (and I could likely have taken it out sooner, as the taste is a bit sour). The next step is to make granola without heating my oven (ie in my pressure cooker), and then I will really be set for breakfast! BTW - I am basically using the pressure cooker as a large heavy pot with a tight-fitting, but steam releasing, lid for yogurt and granola.)

I have been hearing about some of the effects of "Arthur" in Halifax; here's hoping for quiet winds in everyone's "anchorage," wherever that may be.

[The cockpit lighting version 2 seems to be a sucess so I will wire it in properly now. Max].

Love to all,
Elizabeth
PS We are UTC-10
-----
At 7/4/2014 8:49 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°58.00'S 144°35.00'W
-----
At 7/10/2014 7:52 PM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°50.83'S 144°41.77'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Fluenta 8 Jul - Trickle sailing and camping out plus a bit of maintenance.

Greetings!

Today was one of those kid-focused days at anchor that you hope you will have lots of when you sell your house and go cruising :)

After a cockpit breakfast of Dad's biscuits and pamplemousse (we experimented with corn flour instead of some of the wheat flour, but the dough was sticky and the biscuits, although tasty, were quite crumbly), Max and the kids were out with Trickle by 1030. He had offered to let them sail with him watching from the cockpit, thinking that they would appreciate the freedom of movement and the lack of outboard noise, but it turned out that they were both more comfortable with Dad/coach a bit closer ("I just want to be able to talk to you Dad") so Max and both kids went out together. By the time they came back for lunch, all the six kids in the anchorage had had a turn; some went with Victoria, some with Johnathan, and one small boy went with Max. Johnathan drove the dinghy (which he loves to do) for all the turns but his own. It was windier today (10-12 kts), so there were some near capsizes to keep them humble, but everyone came back with a smile of their face.

Lunch was all the leftovers in my fridge (quinoa, rice, and various veg) fried with soya sauce and sesame oil (with Pam's secret ingredient of chile flakes to give it a bit of a kick). This turned out to be popular, but not as popular as the left over biscuits from breakfast!

In the afternoon, we were visited briefly by a family [SV Galatic, authors of "South from Alaska") who has been cruising since their 8 yr old was a baby, just to see if we had any questions. I found out a few things, like she used to drag her diapers behind their boat, and they used boric acid successfully to rid their boat of bugs. They are heading to Fakarava tomorrow, so they wanted to be sure of connecting before we left. It is nice to be part of this community; it is a regular topic of conversation that cruisers seem to look after each other and form bonds in a way that we haven't seen in our "regular" lives in a couple of generations. We feel blessed to be in this place with these people.

In the late afternoon, Max took the kids out again in the dinghy, this time towing them on their boogie board [we call it "shark-baiting] around the anchorage. There were big smiles all around on their return (and a gas tank that needed filling ... this is a good way to turn gas into noise!) We finished the day on the beach; I had thought about staying on the boat (after all it was late and I had diapers to wash), but when I saw all the other dinghies lined up on the beach, I changed my mind :) The plan was to go ashore for an hour, then return to the boat at 5pm in advance of the 5:15 sunset, so Max could do the round trip before the lack of sunlight made the trip through the coral dangerous, but thankfully, I got a ride at the end of the evening instead.

The beach was a hive of activity - grownups visiting, kids erecting tents and shelters, wood being gathered (have you ever seen a bare-footed eight-year-old with a machete in his hands trying to chop down a branch above his head for firewood?? This was my son this afternoon; I was grateful when one of the dads (also barefoot, but more experienced with the machete) joined him in the search!) Max is again sleeping in our Mexican hammock, Victoria has erected our baby hammock under a tarp, and Johnathan has elected to sleep on the ground.

As we were heading to the dinghy, we heard a rustling in the trees (louder than the little rats that we had been watching since dusk), and upon investigation we found our first "coconut crab". These are creatures that have to be seen to be believed. About the size of a lobster, but a blue/purple colour, had front claws strong enough to open the coconut that it was eating, and it waved all its arms to scare away the person brave enough to try to pick it up by hand. Oh, and it can climb trees, which it did as we disturbed its peace! I understand that they are a delicacy that people will spend hours hunting, and then cook whole over the fire, but that will have to be an experience for another day!

When I came back to the boat just after 7pm (two hours after dark) the moonlight overhead, shining on (through) the clear water, highlighted the coral even better than in the daytime. It almost seemed like we were floating on air as we drove out through the black and white coral field. Even my colour-blind chauffeur could see clearly where to go. As with two nights ago, I have had a peaceful evening in my own company - I finished washing my diapers, hung them to dry (saving the kids a hated job), washed dishes and swept the saloon, and even did my first yoga practice since Mexico (Eoin Finn's Weekend Lovingkindness practice ... I tried focusing my 'conflict' lovingkindness towards the bugs on my boat, but I must say that I will still kill any that I see!) It is amazing what can be done with a baby sleeping on a bunk instead of on one's back! All the while I was listening to more of my favourite authors and uplifting music.

Well, cruisers' midnight was several hours ago, and it is even past regular midnight, so I think I will sign off and wish you a good morning :) The wind is supposed to shift tomorrow overnight, so we will likely head back across the atoll anchor by the pass after the campers return.

[Maintenance update: too much fun with little boats and camping to get much done but have done the first and easy part of the vang repair. I have epoxied in the stripped hole into the boom. Tomorrow I will tap and drill in a new hole. After approx 9000 nn and two years in Fluenta we have noted areas where little improvements would back life easier. One was some cockpit lighting other than headtorches and our solar light. The kids and I added a small red LED light that just barely {to preserve night vision on passage}lights up the winches and rope clutches required for reefing the mainsail in-boom furler. We also added the prototype white light rope light with dimmer for dining in the cockpit. It is not quite right yet but should work nicely with on the second version. Next the galley is going to get some additional white lighting. We also added some more flashlight holders so that a flashlight would be on hand when you likely need it. Finally, we replaced the thick three strand line we use to restrain the anchor when on passage {so that the anchor windlass does not have to take any of the load} with a thin line of Amsteel Grey. This will be easier to thread into the shank of the anchor and will not stretch so that the anchor is held in tight when combined with a trucker's hitch. I did the eye splice but Victoria did the locking stitches and a beautiful job on her first palm and needle whipping. Max]


Much love,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/4/2014 8:49 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°58.00'S 144°35.00'W
-----
At 7/4/2014 8:49 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°58.00'S 144°35.00'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Camping, Trickle and Tacos.

Greetings,

Yesterday morning, I was enjoying a lovely, quiet coffee in my cockpit, minding my own business, when into my solitude burst two very excited little people. The camping crew were overflowing with pride and excitement. Johnathan had slept the entire night in his shelter, and Victoria had provided biscuits-on-a-stick for the whole group. Max had a super-comfortable (but short) sleep in our new La Cruz Market double hammock. Who needs solitude when you have stories like this to share? They had seen "loads" of rats (thankfully smallish cute ones, not huge Halifax Harbour ones!) and had even trapped a gecko to bring back (although it had somehow disappeared on the dingy ride to the boat). The first night of camping was a great success, and will likely be repeated, perhaps as early as tomorrow evening.

The rest of yesterday was pretty quiet, as no one had gotten much sleep... This morning, for the first time since leaving Mexico, I suggested to Victoria that she make tortillas for lunch. She loves to use the tortilla press that we bought there, but I had forgotten what a slow process this would be when they need to get cooked one tortilla at a time! Victoria had a great time, though: she made a little restaurant menu, and we all ordered various kinds of quesadilla from her, then she cooked them to order. Even Benjamin ate his fill :) She is feeling very lonesome for the Red Chairs in La Cruz!

Although we woke today to steady winds of 20 kts, it died down by the late afternoon to a lovely breeze of 5-7 kts: perfect Trickle weather. Once again I was proud mama, as I watched Max in the "safety boat" and each child in turn sailing singlehandedly. Victoria even did a "race course" around the three boats at anchor, just to give herself a challenge. Meanwhile, Johnathan convinced Max to tow him behind the dingy on the boogie board when it wasn't his turn in Trickle. What a look of glee I saw on his face as he flew by! They needed a little coaching to start with, they were soon handling Trickle with confidence. Victoria, especially, sails Trickle as if it is an extension of her body.

It looks like this weather will hold for a few days, so we will probably spend tomorrow at the beach (gecko hunting? camping?) and sailing Trickle.

Thanks for your emails and your news,

Love to everyone,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/4/2014 8:49 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°58.00'S 144°35.00'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

April Latitude 38

A bit behind in my reading. Just noticed that the Fluenta crew have their picture in the April Latitude 38 magazine. For bonus points, see if you can find me in a picture elsewhere in the issue (Rob and Nancy excluded from the contest) ...

Max
-----
At 7/4/2014 8:49 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°58.00'S 144°35.00'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Monday, 7 July 2014

Goats, rats and camping.

Good morning,

The kids have just gone ashore to collect firewood, Max is shaping a zinc for the engine (only ones available in Mexico were too long ... [I have the right size for the heat exchanger but the ones for the oil cooler protrude too far into the water flow) and Benjamin is nursing to sleep on my lap. I will send a short note now because our evening may be late ...

Fluenta has been a hive of Junior activity this morning: the kids are going to sleep ashore tonight after we have our goat-roast. They are super excited, as they have been planning just such an adventure for months. In fact, they spent much of our passage pouring over the SAS Survival Guide app on our iPad and telling us all about cooking, trapping, fishing, shelters, wild animals, etc, etc. It is fun to see them taking responsibility for what they need to bring. Just as they were both ready, we got a call from our Belgian friends inviting them to go ashore to gather wood, so they were off in a flash. They will be back for lunch, then we will all go ashore in the afternoon. Our goat roast is now in the hands of our Swedish friends, who are marinating it. We will bury it in coals and cook it tonight. Fun for all.

It is windy here (15-22 kts), but we are becoming acclimatized. It helps that the boat is pretty steady - that we are not either swinging wildly (which puts the force of the gusts on the side rather than the bow) or rolling crazily like we were in Nuku Hiva. Our wind generator loves this place too, and is giving us a pretty steady 3-6 amps [with our solar and wind generator the batteries were topped off yesterday despite it being just past the winter solstice here and having made water for five hours].

Time to tackle the diapers ...

Love to all,
Elizabeth


Greetings (again!)

It never rains but it pours - last week you didn't hear from us, and now you are receiving two emails from one day!

It is 8pm, it has been dark for hours, and I am already home from our goat-on-the-beach party. No wonder that "cruisers' midnight" is 9pm!

It was quite the international meal tonight: all the children (young and old) collected firewood; our Marquesan friends provided the goat when we were in Hatiheu; our Belgian friend built the fire; and our Swedish friends marinated the roast all morning before wrapping it in foil and bringing it to the beach. As for myself and the Belgian mom, we each had a lovely afternoon in our own company on our own boats pottering around and doing our own thing.

The fire setup was quite ingenious: they built a big fire of driftwood, and then beside it created a pit where they could push the coals. Two logs (wet & green to start with and then soaked in salt water for a while) provided a support over the bed of coals for the rack, then more coals were piled on top. This was the cooking oven for the goat. It laid there for 2 1/2 - 3 hours (who looks at a watch on the beach?) then we enjoyed it with pasta salad, couscous salad, and foil-baked sweet potatoes just before sunset (5pm, but who is looking at their watch?). I wasn't sure what it would taste like, but it was surprisingly good and tender. Everyone (even the kids) ate plenty.

Since "the boys" and the kids had been on the beach all afternoon, they had plenty of time to prepare not just for the cooking but also for the camping. The Swedish family had already set up a tarp (they are here in this anchorage for about 10 weeks!), and to this were added a tent, a palm-frond shelter (designed, erected, and slept in by Johnathan [despite all the rats]), and a couple of hammocks (for Max and the Belgian dad). They didn't stop there: they also took some 4-6" logs and created a stand for the Swedish table and a couple of "benches" near the fire. I have never attended such a civilized beach cookout before!

We had a fabulous meal, then enjoyed what seemed like a long evening of conversation. As it turned out, when I looked at my watch because it felt really late, it was 6:15pm! Such is life in the tropics.

Tonight was also the longest I haven't had Benjamin in arms in months: the 11 year old Belgian girl and 8 year old Swedish girl are both quite enamoured with him, so I handed him off as soon as I arrived on the beach, and only had him back briefly to feed throughout the evening. They held him (and fed him his dinner of goat, sweet potatoes and pasta) the whole rest of the time. The 12 year old Swedish boy even had a turn! He is now sleeping peacefully in my wrap, and I may even call it a night soon myself (or I may enjoy the peace and quiet to finish cleaning my galley!).

Anyway, that is our day, part two :)

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

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Fourth of July at Anchor

Greetings!

Happy 4th of July to our American friends, and a belated Happy Canada Day at home:)

My Aunt Margaret asked me today in an email if we ever had time when we didn't have to DO something ... I am not sure if it is our temperaments (type A through and through), our (my) Scotch Presbyterian consciences, or the fact that we live on a boat with two kids and a baby, but it really seems like the answer is a resounding "No!". Even in this beautiful paradise, there is always a job half done or pricking at my conscience.

I thought (assumed) when we packed in our careers and headed off into the sunset that we would find peace and calm in every anchorage, but it is fair to say that I didn't really understand what we were getting into (and who is to say if we had understood we would have come - sometimes ignorance really is bliss!). On the other hand, I have a general sense that if someone were more organized, more tidy, more proactive, more something else that I am not, perhaps they would have more "leisure" time (or perhaps they would not - who knows).

We certainly do see other folks out here cruising who *seem* to have more discretionary time (and space) than we do (the grass being greener on the other side of the fence and all), but when we get chatting with them, it turns out that their kids are grown, or they spent eight years (every weekend if not full time while between jobs) preparing their boat, or they have a nanny/crew with them, or there is some other reason that they have more downtime - in other words, they have paid their dues already.

It regularly astounds me just how much time our basic daily activities take, whether they be my "usual three" (dinner, dishes, diapers) or Max's scheduled maintenance (engine stuff, battery stuff, etc - we have a spreadsheet to keep track of it all). Then there are the "arisings" that come up no matter where you are. At home they were things like sudden car repairs, sick days, etc; out here they are half a canister of sugar spilt in a cupboard that has to be vacuumed *immediately* so that it doesn't attract *more* bugs (which actually means that you have to set up your generator because you are not sure your inverter will support the electrical draw), leaks in the engine compartment that show up just when you thought you were leaving an anchorage, chain wrapped around a coral head that means changing into swim gear and jumping in "right now", etc, etc. Typically an arising has also meant learning a new skill or using new tools. This week, a photo of Max would have shown him sitting in our cockpit, South Pacific anchorage as a backdrop, book in hand: leisure time .. until you look more closely. He has been reading a 2" thick book on weather, getting a handle on the systems we will face as we head for NZ [Dashew's "Mariner's Weather. A good read to go through again. My understanding of mid-latitude weather systems is satisfactory from experience and RYA and CYA training plus time as a private and glider pilot however lots to learn about tropical systems and convergence zones. As well, I would like to get a better grip on using 500mb charts as an additional tool in looking at the weather. The passage from Tonga to NZ has a considerable number of variables and lots has been written on it so much studying to do]. There are such a lot of systems where the same is true: one week it is weather, the next it is plumbing, or diesel engines, or rigging, or the arising of the day. As my dad says, "there is no rest for the wicked"!

Today's arising was the escalation of our war with the bugs that moved aboard in January: Max took down all of our ceiling panels so he could spread insecticide powder, and then fitted the jigsaw puzzle of trim back together again [Considering the ago of the deckhead panels this is a bit of challenge. Replacing the panels is on my "to do" list but no time soon]. In the evening, he found more of them hiding in plain view in the galley, so now the cupboards have coughed out their contents on the counter, and we have sprayed the spaces. Tomorrow's job will be to put it all back again.

It would be easy for the foregoing to sound like a litany of complaint, but it is not. I see this busy time as the season we are in for now. I am also looking for that elusive sense of contentment with things as they are in any given moment - seeing these arisings as tests of that spirit. Wherever we are, it is so easy to rail against reality, but we all have our challenges and we all have our joys. This week, dipping into Byron Katie's writing (book on CD while washing dishes in an empty boat) or Reflections on A Course in Miracles (Kindle book while nursing Benjamin) helped me keep my perspective.

Anyway - that was a longwinded answer to a simple question (would you expect anything less?!) Thanks for bearing with me :) Here is a bit about the rest of our day.

Victoria and I started our day in true "Grampy style": on her initiative, we made biscuits using Dad's recipe and opened a jar of Oct 2012 Grape Jam for breakfast "just because". Rather than overheating my pressure cooker and burning lots of oats, we just cooked them in a greased, covered frying pan on medium/low for about 5-7 min per side. They turned out quite well, especially the jam bundles and cinnamon rolls that she made at the end! We have decided that we will need to do a double recipe the next time (starting with 8 cups of flour!) because the single batch still left us rationing biscuits before everyone was full. I think we will need to experiment with corn flour, as we are getting low on wheat. Thankfully, we can restock at Papeete, if not before.

After a morning of "helping" Max with the roof (by gasping when things fell down, volunteering Johnathan to hold things for him, suggesting he do the thing he was about to do, and finally moving out of the area completely with Benjamin...), I helped Victoria set up our baby hammock (5 ft; made for us at the La Cruz market) on the foredeck so she could try it (an interesting exercise in tying knots and letting her take the lead) and helped Johnathan with a story he was writing, then the kids and I headed with the other families to the beach.

Benjamin went for a bit of a swim today: I got brave and dunked him under water:) Water and air are about 27 deg, but the wind was chilly for him, so I wrapped him in my sling (to the chagrin of the little girls who wanted to hold him) afterwards. We have decided to cook the goat that we were given in Nuku Hiva on the beach tomorrow...

It will be windy for the next day or so (15-20 kts), but nothing like NS is going to see with the arrival of TS "Arthur"... on that note, my thoughts are with you all...

Love to everyone,
Elizabeth
-----
At 7/4/2014 8:49 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°58.00'S 144°35.00'W
-----
At 7/4/2014 8:49 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 16°58.00'S 144°35.00'W

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Back to the SE of the Atoll

Greetings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com