Monday, May 30, 2011

Underway to Fakarava

Andy wants to thank everyone for the birthday wishes we received via email. He turned 41 on the 27th and we were able to celebrate it with the other boats in the anchorage. Jake wrote him a little story for his birthday and we let him do whatever he wanted (i.e. I did all the cooking, cleaning, fetching and Jake let him pick out the movies). I arranged for Yuka on Merkava to watch Jake so that Andy, Mark and I could go diving (I know, a little self serving, but Andy enjoyed it too). We saw a lion fish, a large eel and Mark get spooked by a giant nurse shark. Andy and I both laughed so hard I thought we were going to lose a regulator. Later, I took Jake to our sweet shop (the large tupperware box under the bed) and let him pick out Andy's birthday surprise. After much debate between the cake and brownies, he picked out a boxed cherry cheesecake mix I got in Santa Rosalia last summer. He insisted that would be the best thing. I was skeptical as I actually do know how to make a real cheesecake and wasn't sure if this was going to fly. It turned out to be delicious and large enough for all 7 of us to get a piece. After the latest night we've had since Nuka Hiva, we slept late and just lounged around yesterday.

Today, we finally left Tahanea after almost two weeks. It was a really enjoyable atoll and I know we probably (at least Andy could have) spent another two weeks there exploring the different areas. But Jake and I were itching to go...

So here we are, on our way to Fakarava. It is about 48 miles from Tahanea. It should be a day trip but you have to time the passes right and unfortunately, we would have to wait around a few extra days to time the slack tide at Tahanea in the a.m. with the slack tide at Fakarava in the p.m. and we didn't do that. So we left at slack tide after lunch and are trying desperately to slow the boat down so as not to arrive too much before the slack tide at 7:12 a.m. tomorrow. You don't hear that every day from a sailboat, eh (do you like the 'eh?' I got that from my Canadian friends and just couldn't help myself)? We have just a sliver of the jib out but with 15 knots of wind right on our tail, we're still doing 3 knots and should arrive around 4-5 o'clock a.m. We'll just toodle around until 7:00 fishing or something like that.

Fakarava will probably be the first atoll with the sign of a real town since we left the Marquesas, yet it's still small enough to only be called a village. There are two actually, one in the south and one in the north. We'll be coming up from the south and entering through the south pass. There, supposedly, is a small village with a hotel and maybe a dive shop and not much else. To my knowledge, there's no store. The hotel is supposed to have a restaurant and I can't wait to eat someone else's food. As I said in my last post, we're getting kind of low on the good stuff (and some basic stuff - we have plenty of food mind you, just not necessarily what we want). I'm finding it difficult to find new ways to cook canned chicken, corn and pasta/rice. I've made up a few different new sauces from some of the packets I found in Mexico, but everyone is refusing the canned peas I had left and corn doesn't always sound good in pasta so some meals we have to count my canned tomatoes or jalapenos as our veggie. The chili Andy made yesterday turned out surprisingly good with the shredded beef we had to substitute for the ground meat. Glenda, from Sudden Stops Necessary came over this morning and I traded her a few packages of gnocci (I cleaned out the Mega on several occasions in Mexico) for the rest of her flour. They're almost out of propane so she can't bake until they fill up their tanks so she had no need for the flour. I gave Mark and Yuka on Merkava some milk and he gave us some of their canned cheese today, although I have to say that was purely because we were curious as to what canned cheese tastes like, not because we're that desperate for cheese - it's not too bad by the way, kind of like a white velveeta. I wouldn't eat too much of it plain but it tasted good shredded on top of our chili today. We've also come up with a really good white bean chicken chili (but we're out of white beans), Chicken Tinga that I learned from my cooking classes in Mexico is still a hit, and we found some chinese sausages in the bildge that we bought in San Diego that are surprisingly popular down here and now we actually know a few things to do with them. But they are extremely greasy so I can only eat them in moderation (and Jake hates them so for those meals I find myself cooking twice, not a real big incentive to eat the chinese sausage).

All of this talk about food leads me to the north pass...there is supposed to be a pretty good size village with a nice store and plenty of hotels and restaurants. This is one of the more touristy atolls and we should see signs of that on the north end. We'll also have internet there. It is a good 40 miles from the south side (one of the larger atolls) so it will be a few days before we make our way up there.

Until then, I'll be listening to my iPod and watching my movies, poking my head out every now and then making sure we're not running into anything or something isn't running into us (like a big atoll!). Andy's back is hurting and I know with our early arrival he'll let me sleep late for my next watch so he's awake for the pass, so I'm going to try to reciprocate first and stay up an extra hour...wish me luck.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011's getting to be a habit

Sometimes I think talking to other women sailors about sailing is like talking to
other first time moms about being a mom. We all like to pretend we have it all
figured out when what we really need is a good friend who is just as much in the
dark as we are. Contrary to how I've set this up, this has nothing to do with my sailing skills (they're getting much better), it's my coping skills I'm writing about tonight.

My father in law noted how happy we were in all of our pictures and he was very
proud of us. I love hearing his comments. He's so supportive of us when sometimes
we feel alone in all of this. But it made me think, I rarely post anything negative (and
it really is infrequent). So, if you're not up for a little whining, skip it. But here's a
little part of cruising I've never shared.

What does it mean to be out of your comfort zone? It used to mean I took on a new project at work that I didn't know anything about. Or, I went to a play date with Jake where we didn't know anyone. Or anything else that was "new."

For the current me, it's watching my son jump off the boom while the boat is rocking
or underway. It's yelling at my son to shuffle his feet in the sand to avoid stingrays
because I DO know what it feels like to get stung by one. Before we left Mexico, it was wondering what the passage to the south pacific was going to be like...flat calm? Gale storms? Will the boat tip over? What do I do with Jake during all of this?
Now it's, where are we going? Will we get a grip on the language? Will we have enough money? Here's a doozy, will any of us get bit by a shark? Lately I have this very real fear of getting knocked out by a falling coconut (it's actually statistically more likely than getting bitten by a shark). Will Jake get his hand pinched by a crab? Or worse yet, broken off by a coconut crab (they're huge).

Will we have enough food until we get to the next major port? Am I teaching my child enough? Am I pushing him too much, he's only 5? Will my parents get sick or die while I' m gone? Will Andy's parents get sick or die while we're gone? Will we know about it?

This one will make you laugh. Will Jake get pulled off the dock by a crocodile?
Seriously, I worried about that in Mexico. (It actually happened in Puerto Vallarta to another child).

So I ask again, what does it mean to be out of your comfort zone? Is that a good
thing? I used to think so. I used to pride myself on stepping out of my comfort zone.
I even used that fact about me in interviews, and it worked. These days I think it means I'm on the fast track to an ucler. Or a heart attack (given my family's health history, I'm not too young).

For the most part, cruising is everything people imagine it is, sandy beaches,
palapas, warm weather, nice people, no jobs. But that other space you have to fill
your day with for me, is worry. I've only cracked the surface here with my
worries. The concerns are far greater than any I had on land. Yeah, the odds of
getting killed by a shark are far less than getting hit by a car. I know that. But I
don't own a car anymore. However, I do swim in the Pacific Ocean. And so does my
kid. Daily. On any given day, I'm 2 days from a hospital. No, I didn't mean to say 2
hours. I meant 2 days.

I don't expect sympathy (I'm sure I'm not getting any), and I'm not trying to be dramatic... I guess I just want everyone to know that we're still normal people with normal worries. Well, maybe not normal worries, but worries all the same. It's not all whale sharks and
margaritas (though thank goodness some of it is).

I promise not to whine too often, but it's been a tough week and I needed to vent. We might be leaving here in the next few days (of course we've been saying that for a while) and heading to Fakarava where hopefully we'll get the internet again and maybe a store...we're running low on the basics now. The three cruising boats here are trading things like milk and flour with each other so some of us will be forced to leave soon!

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

5/25/2011 - Still in Tahanea

Well, we're still in Tahanea. We're having a great time and have planned on moving several times but it just doesn't seem to happen. Andy has found a great dive site where he's taken more pictures than he has on our entire trip. I'm bugging him to get some sort of logo so I can get a professional website up and running and we can post them all there. Some of them are really incredible.

I've also gotten to dive and Jake has gotten in a little bottom time as well. He's learning how to clear his ears and Andy took him down to about 10 feet the other day. He's also free diving to about that depth as well... a regular little fish (or a chip off the old block).

We had a bonfire on shore the other night with two other boats here (Merkava and Sudden Stops Necessary). We had a great time. We're all relatively the same age but come from very different backgrounds so there's never a loss for conversation.

Today is a very special day on Savannah. Jake finished his first Hooked on Phonics workbook (Kindergarten). We threw him a little surprise party with balloons, cookies and a small gift. We're all very proud of him. And for those mom's out there who are mad at me right now because you don't believe me... no he doesn't like it, yes he whines every day, and yes, he still stumbles on very simple words. BUT, we're still very proud and throwing him a party is part of my ploy to get him more excited about reading.

We have no idea when we're leaving here...the winds have picked up, making it a little difficult to get to the SE side of the atoll as we planned. But for now, we'll just sit tight and continue to enjoy our beautiful view.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Top Five ways to stay entertained in the Tuamotus

I know I talk a lot about how busy we stay on Savannah and there's really not time to get bored. However, on occasion we do find ourselves looking for new types of entertainment (especially in a place like this with no people or stores or any other type of outside stimulation). I thought it might be funny to share some of them with you guys. So here goes...

5: Feed the fish left over pancakes off the stern of the boat. Specifically trying to get the giant wrass to come up to the surface so we can see his huge lips.

4: (contributed by Jake) Have pretend pirate battles by drawing different kinds of pirate ships on different pieces of paper and place them all over our map table to show what country they represent. Then battle it out.

3: Find a tide pool with tiny fish and sit really still to see if they'll come up and nibble on our bodies.

2: Go hunting on shore for coconut crabs and/or land crabs (usually done after dark). Find areas of shredded coconuts and look for the giant holes to indicate crabs. We haven't actually seen any coconut crabs yet, so far this is a hunting game, not a catching game.

And the number one way to entertain ourselves when found with too much free time...
Have Jake and I chum the waters off the back of the boat for sharks with a freshly caught grouper (well, half a grouper - some of the sharks got him early) and then watch Andy stick his camera in the feeding frenzy to take pictures.

So the next time you get bored, think of us... :).

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Diving in the Tuamotus

Diving in the Tuamotus is supposedly some of the best diving in the world...specifically, drift diving. Until today, I wasn't sure I would be able to participate in it at all and it was getting depressing.

I've already explained how you need to time the entrances into the pass when arriving in a new atoll (due to tides, amount of swell, wind, etc.). Well, as you can imagine, you need to time your dives as well. Andy went diving with our Danish friends in Roroia and they got into a bit of a hair raising fiasco getting back in the pass with our small motor on our dinghy. Had they not been able to get back, they would have had to wait 6 hours until another slack tide to get back to Savannah. Based on that experience, I had kind of resigned myself that I wouldn't be able to do a dive in any pass in the Tuamotus. Not because I was scared or nervous (I've been diving for 15 years), but because I wasn't willing to risk leaving Jake with someone and us not getting back as planned or sitting with one of us in the dinghy getting beat up by the waves while the other one dove.

Well, today turned out to be a good day. We arrived in Tahanea yesterday after motoring for about 15 hours. There was zero wind. We thought there was wind when we left only to be met with flat calm after getting out of Makemo. It was a good day for making water and electricity. The lack of wind made for an extremely simple crossing into the pass and a beautiful anchorage. Since it was still so calm, today we decided to plan a dive in the pass.

If you haven't pictured an atoll yet, picture a bunch of tiny islands made up of coral, making a circle/oval/some sort of shape (formerly the top of a volcano). The pass is one or more spaces between the islands that a boat can get through to explore the lagoon inside. Outside of the passes are lots of coral that eventually drop off into the ocean (making a nice wall - think "Finding Nemo" and the "drop off"). Today, we went to dive the wall. The way we dive is not the PADI recommended way, but it's the only way we can do it seeing as we both like to dive and we have a young child, not yet old enough to stay in the dinghy by himself, or dive with us. Andy goes down first. He has a rope tied to him that's attached to the dinghy. While he dives, Jake and I play games or do some school (spelling games or math problems) to pass the we ate Froot Loops while spelling out simple words like pig and dog and playing rock, paper, scissors. When Andy comes up, I jump in and do basically the same dive while he and Jake snorkel around. In this visability, they can actually see me while I dive. The dive today wasn't incredible, but it was VERY nice. I saw many fish I've never seen before. One even had a horn (Andy said he saw a big one of the same kind). There was a current, so I didn't have to kick or anything, just drift. It was kind of like standing on one of those moving sidewalks in an aquarium where the fish swim over top of you (only I was the one swimming on top today).

After I came up, we made our way to the beginning of the pass and the current was going into the lagoon. So we all put on our snorkeling gear and jumped in, holding onto the dinghy and we just snorkeled the pass while drifting. Again, nothing spectacular, but it was very nice to do our first drift "dive" as a family. Jake had a great time and was begging to do it again... and he saw two sharks!

We dove the small pass today. We're going to move to the larger pass tomorrow and see if we can't dive that one. We keep hearing about "tons of sharks" and "huge fish" in the passes of these atolls, but we have yet to see them. Andy did get some pictures today, but he had his wide angle lens and as it usually turns out, he needed his macro. It doesn't matter what kind of lens he takes, Murphy (is it Murphy?) always ensures he needs the opposite.

Overall, we're still doing great. I'm getting a bit tired (laundry, school, cooking, cleaning, mommy - another blog, another day) and rather homesick (missing my own mommy), but Andy is doing a great job of keeping me entertained and picking up my slack when I fall down.

While we can't read comments when we don't have internet, we do catch up when we pull into a larger port. Keep 'em coming... I love to hear from people. We're very isolated out here and any communication from friends is welcome. It's getting close to the weekend...I hope the weather is turning warm for you guys back home and you all have a great weekend bar-b-que-ing or doing whatever it is you do! Au revoir!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jake's photo shoot

We made it back to the village this morning and will head out to Tahanea tomorrow (weather permitting).  Tahanea is supposed to be a national park with no village or pearl farms, just good snorkeling and diving.  It's one of the places we've really been looking forward to going.

I'm not sure where he got his poses from but it looks like Jake might have been looking through GQ recently?  Here are some of the pictures Andy took of him the other day.  I thought the grandparents would enjoy these...

This one cracks me up...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Makemo - groceries, clear water and giant mantas

We've spent three days here in Makemo and it looks like it will be another two before we head out. We didn't intend on staying this long but we're having fun and well, today it rained. This is significant because we were going to leave today to head back to the village. Only we can't do that if it's cloudy because we can't see the coral heads popping up out of the water threatening to damage the boat. So we're watching movies and collecting water (much needed as I've been on a laundry spree lately) and hoping to head back tomorrow. Once back at the village, we'll get some last minute supplies and head to Tahanea, the next Tuamotu on our list.

In the meantime, we've had a lot of fun here in the SE corner of Makemo. We've gotten into a routine of work/school in the morning and exploring/snorkeling in the afternoon. We've cleaned the entire inside (well, almost entire) as mold is starting to set in with all this rain and Jake's room smells worse than any little boy room I've ever been in (or big boy for that matter). Andy and Jake cleaned the hulls yesterday while I continued the laundry fest. For fun, we've explored the tiny lagoons that separate the motus, played in the tide pools on the ocean side, and snorkeled some of the coral heads close to the boat. A few days ago, we were finishing up our snorkeling and Andy saw some black things poking out of the water. We got in the dinghy and went for a closer look. We all jumped back in the water as we thought we were going to swim with a few manta rays. We were wrong. We were going to swim with one manta. One GIANT manta. This thing was huge...probably had a wingspan of about 8 feet...and it was just gliding through the water scooping up it's food. Probably the funniest thing was Jake trying to chase it down. He looked like a little puppy paddling over to his master. Ever since he touched the whale shark in the Sea this summer, he thinks he has a personal responsibility to find out what everything feels like. I tried to stop him (imagine watching your young child swim vigorously at something three times his size) and teach him a little "caution," but Andy was beaming with pride as he tried to explain to me that giant mantas don't eat small children, especially bony ones like the one we have.

Yesterday we set out again for some snorkeling and picture taking. I wanted Andy to take some pictures of Jake as it's been years since we had any portrait type pictures taken. And Andy wanted a picture of the giant manta. We were only semi successful with Jake pictures, for reasons anyone who's tried to take serious pictures of a 5 year old can understand, but completely unsuccessful on the manta. He was no where to be found. But Jake got to play in some of the most beautiful water I've ever seen. Reflecting on the day, I realized once again how amazing it is that we get to do the things we do here. The fact that we're different from most really sunk in when I casually told my child to "watch out for sharks," as there were baby black tips swimming close by. And he responded with "Mommy, don't worry about me. They're not the chew on you type of sharks." Oh right, of course, I forgot.

We'll be back in the village tomorrow (hopefully) with wifi, so I'll post some of the pictures of Jake for the grandparents and those who haven't seen him in a while.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Makemo... with pictures!

The capain contemplating life (and swells) on our passage
from the Marquesas to Raroia

We made an overnight passage last night to Makemo and had to actually slow down so we could approach the pass in the daylight.  We thought slack tide was at 7:00 but ended up being at 8:00 so we hove to and had breakfast and showers.  Finally through the pass (no big deal) and anchored, we went to shore.  I like this little village.  It's nothing exceptional from a looking standpoint but the people are really friendly and it has a few nice stores.  It also has some restuarants but they seem to only be open at night.  We heard this anchorage was really bad but so far, so good.  It is full of coral heads but we found a sandy spot (thanks to the cat before us leaving) and we don't appear to have gotten wrapped up ( is Friday the 13th).

Of course they don't have the wifi that I've already paid for, so I had to buy a new card in the store.  No worries though...we use it plenty.  So here goes my picture loading marathon.  Enjoy!

Jake got a little seasick on our trip over from the Marquesas and fell
asleep right in the companion way.

Nightly get togethers with Fluer and Yella

The next set of pictures are from the kids on our boat in Raroia...

They LOVE having their picture taken :)

Heading back to the dock in the dinghy...they barely fit!

This is all the kids swimming to the boat the next day, some on
styrofoam rafts.

Next are the pictures from the field day at the school...these are my favorites.

Paroque (sp?) races...pretending to be in a boat.

Jake's first potato sack race...he only fell a few times!

Coconut races...his best race.

Finally, the coconut shoe races...I tried was extremely hard!
Christoph, one of the local boys, paddled his outrigger canoe every evening.  He stopped by one night and let Fleur and Andy try it out...

Not a great was getting dark, but he did a great job.  He said it was "tipsy"

Fluer...she was really good and very fast!

Our pictures from our Mother's Day outing on the east side...

We had to have our picture taken with a coconut tree...

All that was missing were the Coronas.
Finally, what you've all been waiting for...underwater pictures.  So far, no shark pictures.  They're a little skittish and the one "beautiful" dive Andy did, he took his spear gun instead of his camera.  We have high hopes for our next atoll, Tahanea.

Jake and I on our "dive"

Friday, May 13, 2011

Next Tuamotu...Makemo

We spent a few days on the east side of Raroia enjoying the quiet and solitude. There wasn't a lot to look at. It was pretty but there were no big reefs to dive on and no good snorkeling. But it was nice to be in a calm anchorage and spend some time together. It was also sort of neat to see the island that the Kon Tiki grounded itself on ending it's voyage from Easter Island (in the 1940's I think?). To get to the other side (and back), you have to go when the sun is either over your head or on your back so you can avoid all of the coral popping up, seemingly out of nowhere, and also to avoid the pearl farm buoys. They take a black lipped oyster and implant a nucleus made out of Mississppi Clam shell (funny, huh?) and evidently, those Mississippi clams are expensive. The oyster then finds the foreign matter and begins coating it in layers of mother of pearl to make the Tahitian cultured Pearls.

We made it there and back to the village just fine but evidently it wasn't fine to one of the pearl farm owners. He sent a boat out to tell us that we couldn't drive through the buoys (presumably because they didn't want people to hook one as they're so expensive) and that all of the islands were private. They told us if we wanted to go over there, then we would have to go back through the channel and over that way (which is just north of where we crossed). They even said something about calling some Pearl Farm federation but I think that part got lost in translation. Well, we apologized profusely and assured them we didn't touch anything (we don't want to foul our prop any more than they want us to hook their lines), but were left a bit baffled. We had told just about everyone we met that we were going over there. We even asked about the fishing... so it boggled our minds that no one said a thing about how we were supposed to get there or who we should ask. We don't like breaking rules and upsetting locals, but on the other hand, how are you supposed to know if everyone is so tightlipped? Anyway, I think all is well and we're leaving with mostly good feelings. We did make it to shore and get a copy of the newspaper article written about us. Coreen is going to email me the electronic copy and I'll post it here when I get it. It's in French though, so most of you guys will need to run it through a translator if you're that interested. I still don't know what it says...

We've looked at our tide/current programs and are scheduling our leaving here for about 11:00 today. This should put us at Makemo early in the morning well before time to enter that pass. We were going to bypass Makemo but decided to stop since it would only be one night (instead of potentially two) and we could time the pass much easier. They're also reported to have some stores and internet so that was a big plus too. Hopefully the next post I make will include some pictures!

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Just another day in paradise...

It seems sinful to be enjoying ourselves so much.

Yesterday, Andy, Yella and Fluer got up early to go dive the pass. Jake and I stayed back and cleaned the boat, did laundry and got some school work done. They came back after a hair raising experience getting back in the lagoon (so much for local knowledge on tides and currents) with tales of "the best dive I've ever done," and that was Andy talking. So naturally we had to go back so I could do it. Only this time we were going to park the dinghy in between the motus and walk to the outside to avoid the dangerous dinghy ride back. We lugged all four of our tanks and all the gear across the motu and then we realized there was a big surf. Andy went and scouted it out and the final decision was that it was too dangerous. Getting out would be ok, but getting back in would be hairy. If one of those waves knocked us over we could potentially rearrange our faces on the coral. So back to the boat we went.

It was only a few minutes before all the kids on shore (about 8?) were screaming and yelling our names and waving for us to come over. We pretended we didn't understand and just waved and smiled. I wasn't really up for 8 kids on the boat again. Well, whether I was up for it or not didn't really matter because in no time at all, they were all in the water either swimming or paddling on their make shift styrofoam floats...all the way to our boat. They stayed an hour or so, jumping off the bow, drinking more juice boxes (Jake doesn't really like them anyway, but it's funny how that's the first thing the kids ask for), and playing with Jake's toys. They were all very polite but I swear I'm not cut out for that many kids. I don't know how you moms do it in neighborhoods where you have a ton of kids EVERY DAY. I would go nuts. But I digress. Just as I thought I couldn't take it anymore (they were getting salt water on my freshly hung laundry), a big speed boat pulled up and ordered all the kids on. All the boys, that is. There were two girls and for some reason, they didn't have to go. So we waved by and started making supper.

I'm going to spare you the details (Andy gave the girls Wasabi while he made sushi, very funny), but the night ended with Yella and Fluer having a sushi dinner with us and Christoph, the brother of one of the girls on board, joined as well. We had a great time talking and playing with our new pet hermit crab (totally different story).

This morning, the kids all came to the pier with their floats and watched with disappointed faces as we pulled up our anchor and headed to the east side of the island. We heard it was beautiful over here and of course we're not disappointed. After navigating through the coral heads and anchoring a few different times (for some reason we kept dragging when I put us in gear), we finally found a beautiful spot right in front of our own private motu. We explored the lagoon, cracked open some cocounts, and even pestered an octopus before watching the sunset. Tomorrow we'll get up and maybe head to another spot to try our luck at fishing. Ciguatera (a nasty toxin that can build up in reef fish) is high in the Tuamotus but local knowledge says the fishing is good over here and is ciguatera free. We've really enjoyed the tuna so far, but are looking forward to a nice fat grouper.

We still don't know when we're leaving...we're pretty sure no one would ever know if we decided to stay. Since we don't have internet, I can't call home, so Happy Mother's Day to all of our moms! Without you, we wouldn't be here today (literally)! And a Happy Mother's day to all the other moms out there as well. I hope you all have a wonderful day... free of dishes, laundry, cooking and cleaning... Full of chocolate, champagne (if that's your thing), bubble baths and chick flicks.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Trans-Ocean Day in Raroia

We woke up bright and early this morning to go into the school and watch a play/or play with the kids...we still weren't sure. We were pleasantly surprised to find out they were having a kind of a field/sports day. Evidently, today was Trans Ocean day in France. All the countries owned by France, around the world, play Polynesian games (and keep score) and at the end of the day, they all jump online (if they have internet) and compare scores around the world. They were gracious enough to invite Jake to join one of the teams and we spent all morning watching Jake play Polynesian games with the local kids.

He had one advantage in that he already had 7 friends from yesterday. They were fighting over where he should sit/stand and they even gave up some of their snacks to him. Jake did pretty good for not having any point of reference for their games (and not speaking a lick of the language). It also made me stop and think about this trip and how it affects him. He is so young, he really has no memory of playing team games or standing in line or waiting for the "ready, set, go!" He had one incident where he was on the team that was supposed to be watching but when they said "go" (or whatever they say in French), he took off running with the biggest smile on his face right in the middle of the field where others had started their race. When I got him back to the side, he was so embarrassed and wanted to cry. He kept saying "I didn't know when to start...I didn't know when to start..." But after a little comforting and showing him half the other kids didn't know what they were doing either (running in the wrong direction), he was all set for the next game. They played tug of war, they had potato sack races... they even had some sort of race where they walked on coconuts where half a coconut was tied to a string that they had to hold while putting the string between their toes...oh whatever, I can't even describe it but it was hilarious (and Jake was actually pretty good at it). One thing I got out of it was even though he doesn't know how to play any of the games, he's at least coordinated!!! But it does reinforce that we need to make more efforts to join into these type of things, for his sake.

After all the fun and games, we ate a great lunch at Coreen's house (the journalist) and then headed back to the boat for a little rest.

As we were preparing our dinner of oyster meat (given to us by Yella and Fluer who got it from some locals), a fishing boat pulled up to Yella and gave him a huge skip jack tuna. Being the nice guy that he is, he brought it over to share. So tonight we had oyster egg rolls (I had a lot of cabbage and eggplant that needed cooking) and tuna sashimi.

Tomorrow, the plan is for Andy, Yella and Fluer to go diving in the pass. I'm staying back with Jake, partly because someone needs to but also because it's a drift dive and those just aren't my favorite. Truth be told, they make me nervous (and you don't ever have time to look at anything). So Andy is going to do the recon and come back and let me know if it's worth another year off my heart. We'll just wait here and swim with the sharks :).

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lovin' it!

We've been here about 36 hours and we've gone snorkeling, diving, been interviewed for the Tahitian paper, had no less than 7 local kids on board and Andy has gotten to try out one of the local outrigger canoes. We are loving this place. Our plan for a tuamotu a week is slowly going out the window.

Getting through the pass was a bit tricky but I think it's only because it was our first one. It was fairly easy and non eventful and once through, we had clearly entered paradise. This is exactly what we all had pictured. Even better, as we got to the anchorage in front of the village, we saw our Dutch friends Fluer and Yella (I have no idea how to spell it so it's phonetic here).

Yesterday, we snorkeled around the boat and a few reefs and we took a little dinghy ride to a nearby beach to explore the lagoon there. But basically we stayed on the boat and just enjoyed the view (and calm anchorage) and ended our day with cocktails on the bow with Fluer and Yella. Today, I'm not sure what came over me but I did about 8 loads of laundry, 3 loads of dishes (throughout the day) and 2 batches of bread. Then after lunch, we went for a dive with our friends (I GOT TO DIVE while Andy and Jake snorkled). In the middle of all that, we met Coreen, the local journalist and were interviewed for the Tahitian paper. The boat was a wreck, so I'm pretty sure if any pictures make it to the paper, it will be of our laundry.

As we were coming back to the boat from our dive there were quite a few kids on land yelling at us. I took Jake in the dinghy to shore and we met about 7 local kids. In they're broken English and my non existent French, they managed to ask me if they could come to our boat. I was hesitant, but honestly, I wasn't sure how to say no...literally...without sounding rude. So off we went. About halfway, I started to wonder what their parents might think, but out here, I don't think it's really much of a consideration. I mean, they were jumping off the pier into shark infested waters with no supervision...what's a little boat trip going to matter?

The little cookie eating, juice drinking, bow jumping munchkins stayed about 30 minutes before I made them jump back in the dinghy and go ashore. It was total chaos but fun for everyone. We have some fantastic pictures I can't wait to share. We've been invited to go ashore in the a.m. to visit the school and watch some sort of play they have going on (we think...some things have gotten lost in the translation and we don't know if we're going in so Jake can play or if we're going in to watch a play...we'll see). So tomorrow morning, bright and early, we're all heading in.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I'll just end by saying that we probably won't be leaving here any time soon...too much to do and too many things to learn (for example, there are 5 pearl farms does that work?).

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011


The Tuamotus are probably the most talked about and anticipated part of visiting the French Polynesian islands. They are located approximately 500 miles southwest of the Marquesas and about 200 miles northeast of Tahiti. They're made up of 78 islands, all but two being coral atolls. All together, according to our guide, they extend almost 1000 miles. The reason they're the most talked about is because they're so low lying they're only visible about 8 miles out and each has a pass that must be entered and exited only at slack tide to avoid heavy currents (there's even a spreadsheet to help estimate these currents and no to all my geek friends, I didn't create it) and other various dangers. Once inside the atoll, you have to worry about avoiding coral heads as you move around. Many boats choose to just go straight through to Tahiti and avoid these dangers altogether. What do you think we chose?

You would be right...we're stopping. As a matter of fact, we plan to make this our largest leg of the French Polynesian. The diving is supposed to be phenomenal and the waters crystal clear. This is also where many/if not most of the black pearl farms are located (I hope I'm able to experience and write more about these later!).

Easter Sunday, since it rained all day and our Easter egg hunt really didn't take that long, we pulled out all of our charts and guidebooks and did some research. We had a hard time settling on the atolls we were going to visit as there are so many to choose from. Knowing we only had about a month (to allow time to visit Tahiti and Bora Bora before our visa expires), we decided to start in the middle and make our way north visiting four of them; Makemo, Tahanea, Fakarava, and Taou. We made our decision first and foremost on which ones appealed to both of us. Other factors included how easy the pass was, village or no village, diving reports, etc.

So for three days we've been heading towards Makemo. It has a village, potentially supplies (not that we need any, but some fresh bread would be nice), and internet (I know, amazing right?). Today our wind pooped out on us...seriously pooped. It was clear it was going to take us an extra day and a half to get there and we would have to wait several hours for slack tide (for the record...Jake and I were finally comfortable and really didn't care if it took 10 days to get there, but the waiting around for slack tide didn't sound too fabulous). We decided to turn a little to the southeast and go to one of our first choices that got crossed off the list and make it by morning...Raroia. There is supposed to be a small village there as well as a small pearl farm. The diving is reported to be fantastic and the pass pretty uneventful. By the time you're reading this, we'll be gathering real data and will report back accordingly. :) As for the other atolls, I'm going to refrain from discussing them until we actually go as it's all speculation from here. I'm sure all of these atolls are going to produce some Andy Mac originals though and can't wait to share them!

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

In Retrospect

We left the Marquesas this morning about 9:00 and are now headed on our 500 mile trip to the Tuamotus. Even though the wind is good, the seas are coming on our beam, making for an uncomfortable trip. We're motor sailing as our batteries have had trouble keeping up since we arrived in the Marquesas due to all the rain and clouds.

Now that we made it and we've got a month or so behind us, I thought I would give you the real "skinny" on what we've seen so far. I know there are a lot of cruisers in Mexico dying to hear how it "really is" (because they've already asked). So here goes...

I think I stand by everything I wrote on our passage. I wasn't holding anything back and really did have a good time. I've been reading other blogs of people who left before and after we did and I think I've found just a few variables...1) the weather from Mexico to the trades - we had a good time of it, some others seem to have a lot of seasickness 2) the winds at the equator - we had to motor a few days, others were there over a week, and still others had to slow their boat down so they could swim across. 3) tolerance and adjectives - It appears the rest of the weather (as described in various blogs) was relatively the same as us but either the tolerance levels were different, the boats handled it differently, or some know way more adjectives than I do for what we're seeing out there (I think we're probably just not that deep)...I don't know. I would say if you're trying to guess how you would handle it, pick the author you're most like and go from there.

The Marquesas themselves were different than I expected. Andy and I talked on our passage over about how we didn't have any expectations, but that proved to be wrong...we did, we just didn't know it. I think we expected it to be dryer (weather wise) and we expected the water to be clearer with lots more swimming, snorkeling and diving. And I for one, expected a lot of beaches. I read a blog (Totem, I think?) where they talked about the passage being like the three trimesters of a pregnancy - the first third you feel kind of crappy, the second you're elated and enjoying every minute, the third you just want it over with. I would take that a bit further and say a certain percentage of women would find they developed post partem-like (sp?) depression after landing in the Marquesas. The journey is over only to find out you really didn't plan for the destination at all. Your family and friends are much further away than you imagined and you're alone (perception anyway) in a place that you know nothing about. I met at least 4 other women who had a hard time with the first few weeks as well. But not to worry, chat amongst others and rely on your partner for a few good pep talks and all will pass soon (like when you find that one sandy beach that really does exist).

We expected more trading. I think we're here about 10 years too late for that. They understand the value of the Franc and there are so many cruisers and dare I say tourists, here, they can be choosey. We were able to trade a few things but I think it was more the novelty of it than anything that we enjoyed. Perhaps if we went to more of the remote villages...not sure. We didn't hear of a lot of others trading either.

I think if were here without a child, we would have done more hiking. If you're coming with a child, consider age before setting your expectations. Most hikes were at least an hour, mostly longer and the last one we didn't do at Daniel's Bay had four river crossings (chest high with slippery rocks). It just wasn't feasible with a small child. Seeing as hiking is one of my favorite outdoors type activity, I wasn't prepared for this. But I'm working on new ways to motivate Jake (note the addition of Jelly Bellies to our last hike)!!!

I have tons to say but I can see I'm getting rather wordy. I hope I touched on enough things that would be helpful for setting expectations for some future puddle jumpers. If not, at least our families get a clearer picture of what we're doing!

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