June 29, 2011


Close your eyes and imagine your perfect tropical island:
Clear blue lagoon waters?
Soaring green peaks?
White sand beaches?
Palm trees and the scent of gardenias?
Snorkelling on pristine reefs? And hiking through lush trails?
Not too touristy with hotels dotted around the island?
Hula girls and haka dancers?
All check.
 It is stunningly pretty here and as ideal a tropical island as I’ve ever seen. No grit, no grime just flowers and lush scenery with the occasional whine of a jet ski. And while it’s not our usual digs (frankly we just can’t afford drinks at the Hilton) it is fun to hang here and play tourist.

 We’ve woven flower leis, danced on the beach, swum with sharks and stingrays. But now, with our propane gasping to provide coffee and ship’s chandleries beckoning it’s time to take a break from playing and head to the city and regroup for the next part of our journey.

June 28, 2011

Ceilydh's Excellent Prowess

No doubt you will soon be reading in Lat 38 about our amazing feats in the Tahiti Moorea Sailing Rendevouz. We narrowly lost the sailboat race by about 2 minutes to a local racing catamaran (that was not burdened with any typical cruising gear). We came from WAY behind to get 2nd place.
We went the wrong way for the first half of the course, after making a risky tack in the hope the wind would fill in and were in some despair at the light <5 knot winds. But around noon we heard that the trades were filling in from the E. We tacked over and sloooowly made our way to the wind line where we started to pick up speed. Then Diane decides we must put up the chute. Good idea except (a) we thought it was going to be a light wind upwind race so it was still in its locker and not rigged. Then (b) when I hoist it the snuffer, the snuffer's snuffing rope managed to twist into the ropes from those hard plastic pearl farm floats we were using to buoy chain. Great excitement as they made like South American bolos about 12' above my head twisting into the snuffer line. But a long boat hook brought them down safely, without damaging my head.
Now the light winds at first made 30 boats turn on their motors and try to get there so there were only 9 boats still racing. We were so very far behind that we thought we had no chance (and could only just make out the colourful kites of the lead boats on the horizon). But we closed rapidly, hitting 11's and 12 on the surfs, and making a steady 8+ in the 15 knots of wind. With great excitement in our hearts we realized we were passing all the cruising boats we knew, including a MacGregor 65 who had been holding the lead. With excellent crew work (and a wind dance) from Maia and Aeron (temp crew seconded from Don Quixote) we dropped the chute as we crossed the finish line to the sounds of Polynesian drums.

the girl's team wasn't quite as skilled...
  In the outrigger canoe races our team of 4 guys; me from Ceilydh (and the guys from Piko, Britannia and WGD) managed to pull off the narrowest of wins. We had to race 3 times in our heat, semi, and finals. As we crossed the finish line (bow over but not the whole boat), our boat capsized!! We are not sure WTF the happened, but Di was in a photo boat with Andy Turpin from Lat 38, and the sequence of shots makes it look like our Polynesian stern paddler leaned way out and carved us over with his paddle. No idea why he would have done this as we were very nice to all our pro paddlers but maybe he was just having fun with us--or perhaps the other team bribed him.
puddle jump kids
 We ended up with 3 T-shirts, a Lat hat and croakies and strangely, some peach/guava/passionfruit tea. Got to dance with lots of hula type dancers wearing coconuts but the photos will have to wait until we are back in Tahiti with a bit more internet access.

For cruisers in our wake--don't miss the rendezvous. We felt a little like we sped through the Tuamotus--but the chance to meet up with 40+ boats we crossed with (and beat them all in a race) was worth the effort.
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June 24, 2011

Landfall Tahiti

Tahiti welcome reception
Pictures, phonecalls, email etc soon--but just wanted to let friends and family know we safely arrived Tahiti last night and anchored at Point Venus with WGD and Britannia. Piko is further into Papeete. We're pulling up anchor and heading further into the city now.
We hear there is a four lane highway.

For other cruisers following in our wake, Point Venus is an excellent night time entry/departure point for Tahiti--it's wide open and flat calm.

* Happy Graduation to Colleen and Happy Birthday to Carolyne!!

June 23, 2011

The Downhill Run to Papeete

We're cutting it close. The Rendezvous starts Friday afternoon and we just exited the beautifully calm pass at north Fakarava into perfect trade wind conditions--15 knots from astern and long rolling swell. We expect to arrive in Papeete sometime Friday morning. I guess we wanted to squeeze in every Tuamotu experience we could--which we did
Over the past two days we've hiked out past a small lone motu then waded in knee deep water to the edge of the exposed reef and were overwhelmed with awe at the collision of water against coral. This is one view that the photos can't do justice to--but as sailors, we couldn't help but imagine how early sailors must have felt when they saw no sign of land and only frothing water before their ship hit the reef. After our hike we sailed up the inside of the lagoon--the channels are well marked but my heart still quickened whenever a reef loomed out of the depths.

Halfway up the atoll we stopped for the night and explored a copra farm on shore, then early the next morning we headed to the village of Rotoava--we were out of bread, milk, eggs and cheese (and a whole bunch of other stuff--but that can wait) but our main goal was to visit a pearl farm. First though we needed to adjust to roads, and cars, and while there were only a couple of each it took a bit of concentration not to get run down.

The pearl farm was interesting. They buy their shells fully grown--unlike the Guaymas farm, so the process is not nearly as labour intensive. Luckily we arrived at harvest time--so we had the good fortune of watching the grafter (the person who harvests the pearl then replaces it with more Mississippi oyster which makes the next pearl (a good oyster can go through four grafts--and produce four pearls in its life). Each graft produces a larger and larger pearl and only the best--healthiest oysters are reused. If an oyster produces a flawed pearl it doesn't have new material grafted in and is instead used for meat.

The process was fascinating and the pearls were lovely (although I'm pretty convinced the Sea of Cortez pearls are prettier). The bonus with these pearls is they are almost affordable--especially for the less than perfect pearls--so Barb, Jo and I all added sparkly things to our collections. I think we'll look quite fetching at the Mayor's cocktail party.

But now the Tuamotus are fading behind us. I have my tattoo to remember the Marquesas, pearls from the Tuamotus and more memories than I can recount. It is amazing how much we've packed in. A few days ago I was talking to Lauren-girl from Piko about when we first met. It was hard to recall the exact moment because Mexico seems so long ago. And so far away...

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June 21, 2011

Dead Man's Motu

I think I found my friend Monica's skeleton on a tiny motu on Fakarava on Fathers day.
It was arranged nicely: surrounded by a ring of coconuts its bones were piled into a mound with its skull perched on top. Angled with its gaze looking out toward the boats anchored in the lagoon's blue water I thought the skeleton had done well for itself--as far as these things go. The only mystery is I was sure that Monica had written about finding only one set of skeletal remains at Fakarava--but as we looked respectfully at some departed soul in his final resting place (contemplating how old bones must be to lose their teeth and grow chalky and rock-like in appearance) it became clear the pile contained not just one skull, but at least one more cranium and jaw, and there were more long leg and arm bones in the pile than it seemed like even two people might need.
As I encouraged Maia to ponder the mystery: cannibalism? shipwreck? burial island? pirates? bad luck? she lost interest and began gathering up hermit crabs to run a race. Which lead me to a second contemplation--is my child in sensory overload? I asked her what self-respecting Nancy Drew/ Trixie Belden book addict can look a mystery like Dead Man's Motu in the, a'hem, empty eye socket and then go play with crabs?
This isn't the first time I've wondered if we've spoiled Maia with life's riches. Earlier in the day (after spending the morning making Evan a breakfast of homemade English Muffins) we dinghied over to Fakarava's south pass so we could drift dive/snorkel. The north side of the pass is a sheer coral wall that starts a foot below the surface then drops down to 80'. The coral is abundant and highly coloured and the reef fish are large and diverse. The real draw though is the pass is swimming with hundreds of docile reef sharks.

As we waited for the current to ease up so we could do our drift, we all swam in at a sheltered area that boasted the highest number of cool things. Maia swam around for a while--looking at this and that, then she and Danielle got cold and lost interest, and spent the rest of the time chatting in the dinghies. When we came up from our dive all the two wanted to do was go check out a new motu. Are you afraid of the sharks I asked Maia. No, she said, she just wanted to play with hermit crabs.
Which is how we found Monica's skeleton.
I don't know about most people, but I've never just stumbled across a skeleton before. Not even one I had a little advanced warning of. Evan saw several when he was in Haida Gwaii when he kayaked there as a teen--though they were in the Haida Burial grounds, not just laid out on a beach--but they still made a huge impact on him. I think finding a skeleton should be like that.
But somehow we're raising a kid for who the extraordinary has become ordinary. Skeletons, sharks, manta rays, endless celebrations with friends, nights so black you feel like you can touch the stars and water so clear you could fly in it--this is the stuff of her childhood.
As the kids ran off and played I said all this to the mound of old bones--searching for answers. Wondering if perhaps wonder should be rationed out in smaller servings. As I spoke (okay thought--I'm not quite at the point of talking out loud to dead people) I followed the old skull's gaze--she seemed to be looking right at our boat, and behind our floating home the sun was dipping into the ocean, and silhouetted in the foreground was Maia. She was holding a crab in her palm, and appeared to be coaxing it to come out of its shell--perhaps whispering softly for it to be brave.
And as its pink-tipped pincers reached out to explore the world Maia set it back down and urged it on its way. And I saw clearly what the skeleton's message was: I can offer Maia the world but she'll only take what she needs, then find her own path.

When you are a nine-year-old girl, hermit crabs are simply way less creepy than sharks and dead people.
PS--to the Fathers (specifically ours...) happy belated fathers day! Messages were written but in my case (Diane) our airmail address book has eaten your addy, Dad, so please send us a note to diane at dianeselkirk so we can add it back in... Otherwise you'll hear from us when we get to Tahiti.
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June 19, 2011

Onward from Tahanea

We woke the other morning to flat calm. No, that doesn't describe it. We woke to a morning where the division between sea, air and sky had disappeared. We could see the bottom, at 40' and all the fish that swam there as though we were looking at birds in the sky. And the horizon between sea and sky had faded until everything was the same shade of blue. We were floating in an infinity ocean.
The wind stayed down for the next few days and we began to wonder if we really could do it all: If we could see a third atoll, Fakarava (say that three times fast) and sail to Tahiti in time for the rendezvous. Yesterday though the wind started to come back and we slowly sailed down the Tahanea atoll to the deserted village of d'Oato where we took advantage of the water catchment systems and filled up with wash water. We also wandered through the village--checking out the ruined huts, visiting the graveyard and entering the tiny church: A building which looks like it was last used on Sunday.
Through the night we felt the wind gradually rise and early this morning we raised our anchor by moonlight. A half hour later we were at the pass and the sun was up. We were 30 minutes late for the predicted slack and the seas had started to build, but we punched out through them. Us first, followed by WGD (who rose so high on one incoming wave that I saw the leading edge of their keel) and Bluemoon last. They took advantage of seeing us struggle and found a slightly less turbulent path. We left behind Piko and Britannia--they wanted to take advantage of the water and catch up on laundry and boat chores.
The plan is to meet again at Papeete or Moorea next week--but first WGD, Bluemoon and us have one more atoll to squeeze in. And after a stunningly perfect day sail: 12-15 knots from astern over seas flattened from the days of calm wind we arrived at the pass at 2pm under a bright blue sky.
Pulling into Fakarave we understood at once why people told us not to miss it. One side of the anchorage is exposed reef--and has surf crashing against it, the other is a group of little motus separated by blue lagoons--we dove in the water shortly after arriving--and now we're watching on the sunset on what has turned out to be another perfect day.
Loving this.
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June 17, 2011

Our Front Porch

When I was a kid I was intrigued by houses with front porches. There was something about seeing, and being seen by the people in your neighbourhood that just struck me a nice. It was so much more hospitable appearing than a back yard with a deck--where life seemed to happen privately and unless you were invited, you never went. But if we saw our neighbours in their front yard, or on their front porch they were approachable-and the reward for stopping by was often great things, like warm cookies.
When we moved to the East Coast and saw there were entire neighbourhoods where everyone had a front porch I was completely sold on the idea. I decided that my house (if I ever got off a boat and became a dirt dweller) would have a front porch.
Something of this idea must have carried through to our boat--because there is some sort of magic energy that has made our foredeck the front porch in every anchorage and it's become the go-to place for sundowners and potlucks for crowds greater than 14.
Last night it was Amanda's (Britannia) birthday. And after a day that we collectively agreed one of the best ever that our happy group of 11 has ever had--we were joined by three more boats for an awesome moonlit potluck on our foredeck. The combination of amazing food (how the heck we all keep pulling such great stuff from our diminished stores never ceases to amaze me) and really good people came together in an epic night of happiness. Seriously, there was so much mutual appreciation going on that cynical types might have gagged a bit. But, the truth is, somehow in the gamble that is buddy boating we have put together one of the nicest combos of boats I could ever have hoped for.
We each have different strengths and different skills and generosity flows freely through the group--and happily our foredeck has been the meeting place for some of the best moments. And I didn't even need to become a dirt dweller to get my front porch.
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June 16, 2011

Close encounters of the Aquatic Kind

Evan, Maia and Lauren-boy jumped in off of one side of the dinghy and immediately let Lauren-girl and I know that the current had really picked up since our snorkel on the other side of the pass. So she and I hurried into our gear and flopped over the side in tandem.
"Sharks!!" I gasped as I lowered my face into the clear water.
Just ahead of our speeding dinghy were (three, make that four, five, seven!, was that two more?) black tipped sharks, all milling about, minding there own business, seemingly unaware that five hapless swimmers were being swept into them in a rapidly moving stream.
"Lift your foot!" I sputtered at Lauren as we passed the first little shark and nearly booted it in the head. We both tried to shift and contort to avoid them—all the while overcome with near-hysterical giggles as the bewildered sharks tried to sort out just what was happening as we blew through the centre of their school.
 Most people who visit the Tuamotus do so for the diving (although the pearls are also pretty nice…). There are plenty of coral reefs and bommies found inside the atolls—which offer gorgeous, albeit low-adrenalin dives. But it's the drift dives—where you ride the current either into, or out of an atoll that make the place truly special.
Drift diving is like being on a poorly-maintained conveyor belt in the world's coolest interactive aquarium. At times you blast past colourful corals and through schools of fish. While other times you loaf along (or perhaps stop then go backwards) and have time to look at everything (and time for everything to check you out) before the current catches you again.

Motupuapua pass at Tahanea has become our favourite snorkel—on our first dive we saw a giant manta ray, white tipped and black tipped reef sharks. On subsequent dives we added a nurse shark and gray reef sharks to our 'sharks seen' list and noted that unless the sharks were particularly large and excessively interested in us, or we were about to inadvertently run one (or several) down we have become more complacent about swimming with the fascinating creatures than we could ever have imagined.

The current eased off on our snorkel as the pass widened out and we slowed down. As we were exploring, Lauren-boy pointed out a giant manta ray cruising by. A few minutes later it returned with two other rays. Soon we had five rays circling us—swimming just out of reach, but seemingly as intrigued by us as we were them. We waved the WGD dinghy over and learned they too had seen the rays and we pulled the two dinghies together and let the rays come to us. One after another they approached and tentative touches were exchanged.
Maia and one giant ray seemed almost to accidentally swim into each and when Maia reached out with her hand the ray flapped its big wing—either slapping or high-fiving her. Amazingly having a huge aquatic creature with a 10 foot wing span smack her didn't concern Maia at all—and she continued to happily swim with the rays, watching as they glided towards her, huge mouths open wide to catch plankton (and big enough to slurp her up).
"That was nice." Maia said as she climbed out of the water. As though swimming with rays, and sharks, and parrot fish and butterfly fish were an everyday thing in an ordinary childhood.

*We'll head for Tahiti sometime next week and will post pictures then. Feel free to leave comments, we won't see them for a bit but really enjoy them.
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June 14, 2011

Blissfull Tuamotus

Whenever I read blogs from friends who hit the Tuamotus before us the refrain was always the same, "I wish I could upload photos so you could see this place..." So I won't say that.
 After all it's hard for photos to do justice to a beachside bonfire where the sun is setting behind our anchored boats and the moon is rising above the stand of palm trees that are the backdrop to our potluck. And how can photos tell the story of the army of colourful baseball-sized hermit crabs which arrived at our beach party, like so many huge, ungainly (but remarkably endearing) ants and snuck (if a hundred, or so, golf balls and baseballs can sneak) onto the picnic blanket in search of crumbs. And what can photos say of our snorkel trips through the passes--some which we timed badly so we sped through the clear azure water at 3+ knots and others which were so perfectly timed that we drifted at the same leisurely rate as manta rays, sharks and massive Napoleon wrasse. And how--other than a stop-action sequence--could I record Maia shimmying up a coconut tree and tossing down nuts?
 I am taking photos though--and at some point when we hit civilization again we'll post them (although right now, with the calm still waters surrounding us and nary a squall to be seen, civilization doesn't beckon. At all. Although I am curious about game 7 of the Stanley Cup--Go Canucks!!)

But being away from it all is strangely freeing. It makes me want to be creative (I've had jewelry making lessons from Lauren on Piko and the writing group is going strong) and cook creatively--even though there is not a grocery store to be found, and it's been over two months since I last visited a reasonably well-stocked (by US standards) supermarket. Maybe it was the moment when Maia broke into a dramatic soliloquy where she pleaded with me to cook anything but beans. Anything.
Or perhaps it's just I have time on my hands. But somehow I turned out Vietnamese Salad rolls, lentil loaf with mushroom gravy, lemon chicken, polenta pizza, and more from our accumulated stores. Variety, more than quantity, is the key to happiness out here.
I'm not sure if it is the beauty, the freed up time (being in a deserted atoll sort of strips the day down to it's most basic...) or some blissful combination but it's easy to be lazily creative here. With an emphasis on lazy.
And now I'll close this post because I need to go bottle my freshly made ginger beer.
Evan's p.s. Our anchor was stuck in a bit of coral since we first anchored. I free dove twice to get it unstuck but no joy with a taut chain tugging on it and 18 knots of wind. Today Diane motored the boat forward in light winds, I scuba dove down and got it out of it's chain embrace with no problem. It was no wonder I had trouble freediving - the anchor was in 40' of water and at that depth I'm limited to about 10 seconds of time on the bottom before my body starts craving air. The visibility here is excellent and I could see the anchor dig into the sand once Diane put the motor into hard reverse. Fascinating to watch.
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June 12, 2011

A Motu of One's Own-Tahanea

The water is blue--"as blue as every blue I've ever dreamed," says Maia. Under our boat it's almost a navy blue--but it's so clear we can see the bottom. The shallow water closest to the motu is the lightest and brightest blue and small black-tipped reef sharks swim there. The beach is white coral sand. And at its centre stands a coconut grove of maybe 30 bright green trees that sway in the breeze. We walked around the motu not long after we arrived here, then snorkeled on a bommie not far from our boat. On this surface kissing coral head we saw bright orange parrot fish, purple coral and absurdly decorated fish that made us giggle. Tomorrow we will dive the pass and have a bonfire.

And ideal idyll.
A good place to be idle.

Even getting here was peaceful. We left Makemo on an earlier tide than we would have liked because the incoming tides make for a much nicer pass crossing. This meant we had almost 20 hours to travel 90 miles. But when we reach in 15-18 knots we tend to go 8+ knots. So we reefed. And reefed some more. Until with a handkerchief of a jib we were still making 5 knots. We could heave to and drift (and eventually did) but it's nice to practice other skills as well. So we towed warps behind us, and slowed to 3 knots. This found us outside the pass at 4am with 4 masthead lights around us: Piko, WGD, Blue Moon and Britannia. When the current was right we entered the pass, one after another. Into our empty, uninhabited atoll.

A motu of our own. I would say, bring on the adventure, but really, I wouldn't mean it. I want a week where the biggest thrill is identifying a new reef fish. Or finding a pretty shell. Or watching the sunset with friends. Bring on the peace and quiet and hold back the 40 knot gusts.

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June 11, 2011

Moving on from Makemo

View Larger Map

It seems the weather gods are easing up on us and we can move on. Next stop is Tahanea--a remote atoll with no village or internet! We'll be there for a few days (weather willing) and are still hoping to make the cruisers rally in Tahiti in 10 days. We'll see...
the outside of the atoll

passing squall

June 9, 2011

Not Enough Hours in the Day

Barb and I were juggling schedules—if we did yoga after lunch, and visited the pearl farm after home schooling, that should leave just enough time for a beach cleanup before the evening net—unless we are leaving today… But it still doesn’t leave time for laundry or the writing workshop, and are we having sundowners on Ceilydh’s foredeck again today? Or does Evan still have a fibre glassing project spread out across the nets? And what am I going to make for dinner? The only fresh veg in the store today was one $4 carrot …

People ask how we stay busy out here.
And if we get bored.
And the answer—for all those people who imagine us on an endless holiday that consists of long lazy days of nothingness, interrupted by the occasional beach stroll or swim—is staying busy isn’t a problem. Fitting it all in is.
 I am behind on everything. Our laundry is piling up, my emails are neglected and I have projects I’ve been meaning to get to since somewhere around San Francisco still waiting. Everything I do get done takes twice as long as it would on land—and sometimes much, much longer. Especially if we didn’t have the foresight to pack a part for some project or another.

This isn’t a complaint.
We actually find it as funny as anyone else would. I really imagined having long lazy hours at my disposal—but somehow between keeping the boat clean, dry, and functioning; and educating and entertaining Maia; and finding and preparing food; and working; and coping with those sudden crisis’s that crop up with such regularity that we really ought to schedule them in; and traveling from one place to the next—all those hours that I imagined having all to myself have been idled away only in my imagination.

I pretty much have all the same balancing/time issues as every mother everywhere—I’m just doing it on a small boat far from girlfriends, gyms and therapists…

But sometimes, like mothers everywhere, I do find a way to take time for myself. I decide we can wear dirty clothes for one more day and join our buddy boats for a yoga class. And I realize that Ev and Maia can fend for themselves for an evening while I sneak off to have a girl-night on Britannia.

And while eating a double batch of popcorn and yawning, and watching a lushly romantic movie that husbands and kids would never want to see, it seems that for one day, at least, we found just enough time to fit the important stuff in. And maybe tomorrow I’ll get to the laundry.

June 7, 2011

Blow’n in the Wind

tied up to the pier at Makemo

We were headed out on our second drift dive through the pass at Makemo. Our first dive was with a guide—and was one of the best dives I’ve had. Excellent visibility, loads of sharks, lots of pretty fish, fascinating coral—the works. We were down for about an hour and when we surfaced we were committed to going again.

So we went the next day with Lauren (Piko) and Michael (WGD). Almost from the outset the dive felt different—there was a front looming on the horizon, and the current (which should have been the same slack tide as the day before) was running more quickly. We dove down and whipped past the coral at three knots—surfacing 15 minutes later out in the ocean looking at a menacing sky. An hour later the weather hit.

Rock’n at the dock…
Foiled by foul weather…
This is pretty much the story of everyone in our region right now. It’s not that the wind is particularly fierce or the mer is dangerously agitee, but the strong blow means that the water is too stirred up to navigate safely through the atolls and the strong current means that getting out (and then back in) through the atoll passes isn’t as safe as it could be.
the arrival of the supply ship
 So we’re pretty much stuck.
As far as being stuck we’re probably better off than many people—we’re tied to a pier and the supply ship is unloading as we speak. When our cheery little group isn’t feeling boat-bound and a bit stir-crazy our summer-camp activities continue. I’m running a writing workshop (so all these awesome bloggers can turn their stories into $$), Barb is our morning yoga instructor, and the round robin of dinner parties, movie nights and board game tournaments is keeping us all happy.
 There is also plenty of time to get to those nagging chores. Which perhaps isn’t that fun. The problem though is this is the third time we been stuck in as many anchorages, so while this means we should be good at hanging and have a well-developed Zen about the whole thing, we’re also watching the calendar of our time in the South Pacific tick down…

June 3, 2011

Just Add Water

 “Mum, I’m not sure what they’re saying, but I think they want to play.”
Maia was staring down a little crowd of local kids on the dock. We’d all exhausted the standards: what’s your name, how old are you, how are you, and where are you from--and were at the stage where we stared at each other and smiled. So Evan hunted out a length of rope and they all began skipping. Soon the crowd grew and giggles rang out.
 Pouheva is a community with about 750 people living on Makemo atoll. There are three stores, a church, a post office and a school—which means that the 50 or so boats that show up here each year are pretty much the biggest entertainment going. We offer the kids here a glimpse into an outside world that they don’t have a ton of access to. And we bring toys and entertainment to a place where a basic rubber ball costs $10.
Britannia may have gotten more than they bargained for when they let the first kids aboard--but they all headed back to the dock after the swim was done
 Mostly though, I think they entertain us. There are moments when they are a little too enthusiastic and we end up being a bit overwhelmed, but it’s worth hearing the giggles.

Made it to Makemo

We did beat the clock—the wind filled back in enough to motor sail and we made it in with what turned out to be time to spare the other afternoon. The other boats in our group were all 15+ miles behind us, so none of them were able to make the afternoon slack water and had to hold off entering overnight.

It turns out that Pacific Northwest sailing sets us up well for atoll sailing. We’ve had loads of experience with tidal passes (including nearly being sucked through one backwards when we lost our engine in little Ceilydh) so the pass at Makemo was fairly straight forward. We punched through the standing water at the mouth of the atoll (and through a big pod of frolicking dolphins that we couldn’t really take the time to enjoy…) then went full throttle to get through the pass.
 Once in a group of locals waved us into the pier to tie up—so we pulled in and joined the two French boats already there. It felt a bit like a party. Maia ran around with the kids (and lamented her poor French). I tried to talk to the adults (and lamented my poor French), but gradually (with hand gestures and garbled words) we got the lay of the land.
 Yesterday morning we watched Britannia and WGD arrive—then headed into town to explore the five streets. Yes, five (although I only counted four…) As we wandered we saw a kid with an armful of baguettes and asked where to find them—so she handed us one of hers, then pointed us the right way.

Pico had missed the first slack water of the day—so we were all there to watch them enter 6 hours later. They crossed the rough water to our hoots and cheers. Once everyone was settled we headed off for our first snorkel in the clear, clear water. We just explored the little reef off of town—but even there I saw fish I’ve never seen before.
 As the sun set and the two French boats pulled out—our buddy boats pulled in and filled up the pier. “This is just like summer camp!” Krister told us all with a big grin, as we wandered from boat to boat and planned activities for the days ahead.

Summer Camp—Tuamotus style…

June 1, 2011

Beat the Clock and Dodge Squall--game day on Ceilydh

I was semi-reclined on the settee, blanket over my shoulders, ipod on (listening to the Decemberists, The King is Dead my new fav album...), staring into the starry darkness. Wait. Where did the stars just go?
Our sudden acceleration from a sedate 6 to 8, 10, 12 knots was the clue. And before discovering if there was enough wind in the squall to push us up to 14 knots I was outside--blowing the mainsheet and then the Genoa sheet then bearing off for good measure. Looking up, I noticed a postage-stamp sized cloud squatting over us--blowing its own personal gale then offering up enough rain to float an ark. It hadn't been anywhere on the radar when I checked 10 minutes ago--but now as I checked again I saw a large C-shaped menace curving across our path.

"How do they do that?" I asked Evan who had been roused by the commotion. How do those little tiny clouds materialize out of nowhere then grow into big 'ol squalls, right over our heads... Twenty minutes later, on the other side of the squall, we unfurled the Genoa and were on our way, heading right direction again. But the squall, which had disappeared again, had sucked up all the wind and we were left loafing at 4 knots.

The problem is four knots isn't gonna cut it. We're in a race to get through the pass at Makemo during slack current (or at least slow current) and before the sun is too low. If we don't hold at least 6.5 knots for the next 80, 70 now 60 miles, we're going to find ourselves heaving to just off a coral atoll in squally weather. And squalls, as I've noted, are a lot more work than a peaceful night's sleep at anchor. And we're ready for a peaceful night's sleep.

Timing landfall is always a tricky thing. Once you're sailing than a couple of day's distance the variables stack up and all you can do is guess. We try to base landfall on our average speed--but if we're well over or under our average, or if we need to arrive during a small window it all becomes more complex. Add the fact that we don't really have any sort of back-up harbour to go to and you can see the problem.

So we're playing Beat the Clock--the prize is a cozy night in bed...

S 15 44
W 143 08
57 miles to go (sung to the tune of Old Bus Driver Speed up a Little Bit)

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