Fakarava Atoll North to South…..

Dear F&F,
July 25-26, 2009

Saturday morning went to shore for croissants. I took my cafe au lait in a to-go cup for the dinghy ride. It was a pretty long walk to the tiny bakery stall from where we tied the dinghy to the cement wall. We got soaked to the skin as it rained. We held hands & laughed. A real tropical outing. We stood under the overhang of the bakery (no interior) & munched down the delicious pain au chocolat. We bought four extra for the freezer. We double plastic bagged them & stopped under palm trees during the torrential deluges of rain that came, then passed. We saw a double rainbow briefly. When we got back onboard I cooked us some eggs & Scott checked in with the Coconut Radio Net while I tidied up. He likes to hear about the places \”down the road\” from us that we plan to visit.

As a continuation of Bastille Month, there are some local festivities today. I thought someone was coming to talk to us when a 25 foot power boat pulled up close to our cockpit. I sent Scott out to see what they wanted. It turns out that the starting line for their outrigger canoe race was right at our boat! We had front row seats to the start of all the races. The guys looked to be enjoying themselves as well as trying their best to go fast & win. It was fun to watch. They had singles, doubles & 6 man canoes in separate races throughout the day. We went to shore about 11:00 a.m. & watched ladies sitting on the ground weaving palm fronds in a competition. Speed mattered, but after their item was completed they were also judged on quality of work. How they could sit there on the ground with their legs stretched out for over an hour was what impressed me! There were about 20 cruisers from all the different boats gathered to watch. We had a snack as we didn\’t know what the food would be like. Some ceviche & skewers of meat were sold. I was told the meat was goat – no thanks! And I am not that big on ceviche either. Karen & Graham from \”Red Herring II\” had given me a hunk of fish they caught, so I have plenty of fish.

When things seemed to be winding down for a lunch break & it was unclear what else was going on in the afternoon, we dinghied over to another, bigger, catamaran (Catana 58) that has a husband & wife crew for the owners of \”Hilo Hatties\”, Hawaiian clothing manufacturing. Mrs. Romig & 4 guests just flew out. We were invited for dinner. First drinks, then to a restaurant for a native dancing show. Apparently the restaurant was sold out for dinner, so back to their boat for dinner.

\”Mariah\” is only 8 feet longer than our boat but seemed enormous by comparison. Their captain, also named Scott, had been over to our boat earlier. He & co-captain Allyson are Americans that emigrated to New Zealand & now crew on various yachts. Didier, a French captain from another catamaran stopped over for a quick drink & zoomed off again. Jim Romig, the owner of \”Mariah\”, had known him from previous charters. When I asked Jim if his wife enjoyed the boat or just tolerated his whim, it was apparent that I hit a tender subject. \”She will not be returning – been there, done that.\” Hmmm. He said she is very involved in many organizations & activities in Hawaii which is their home. Apparently of the 2 years he has owned the boat, he has only spent a few weeks onboard.

The highlight of the evening was going in their (bigger, faster) dinghy about 20 minutes down the reef, tying up to a pier & walking onshore to a restaurant. We timed it just right. The men played drums, guitars and ukuleles. The women shook their hips so fast it made your head spin. Very festive, and although entirely touristy, I was happy to see some native dancing. There wasn\’t any kind of dancing at the public festival. It pretty much ended after some coconut oil products were shown. We didn\’t pay to see this, just crowded in with the guests that were going to stay for dinner. Three French guys from the dive shop were there. They were very friendly to us.
We are really bad about staying out late. By 8:30 we like to be showered if not in bed, so we were kind of tired & cranky by the time we finished dinner aboard their boat & dinghied home. Scott complained of feeling nauseous & feverish. He got full-on chills and stomach cramps. I gave him Pepcid, Tylenol with codeine, 2 Aleve & put him to bed. He needed to be bundled up, but fell asleep pretty quickly when the medications took effect. When he awoke during the night, he felt hot. His temperature was 99, so I gave him aspirin & he slept till the morning.

Poor guy did not feel too swift this morning. He knows several cruisers that contracted Dengue Fever in this area. He still wanted to move down to where \”Migration\” is anchored, 30 miles south. I knew from the way our boat had spun at the anchor this week that he would have to dive to untangle the chain from the coral heads. He wanted to try to raise it without gearing up, which we did, without luck. So in he went. It was a good sign to me that he actually perked up once in the water. We had some tense moments with me maneuvering the boat, raising the anchor & running forward to knock down the \”chain castles\” that pile up in the locker. He is on the surface trying to direct me. Did I mention it is blowing 20-25 knots? It was very stressful for me, but I simply cannot throw a hissy fit in the middle but have to get the job done the best I can. Part of the problem is communication: A) being able to hear his commands & B) understanding what he means. Part of it is making the boat behave as I want it to given the strength of the wind & trying not to re-tangle the chain. Plus new challenge – do not get the chain caught in the propeller as it is now floating off the bottom with the lift bags he clipped on to get it off the coral! Go ahead…ask me if I am having fun?!

We briefly de-brief about the maneuvers & then Scott moves on to focusing on a safe passage down the 30 mile coast inside the atoll where there are numerous coral heads, hopefully marked correctly on our chart. It is blowing strong still & I do not find it comfortable to be outside in the strong wind. I put down part of our \”windshield\” to try to have some protection, but the wind is coming from the side, so this helps little. It is a long 5 hours. After Scott takes the first two hours & is convinced our chart is accurate, he collapses on a cushion in the cockpit floor. He is genuinely sick, some bug of some type. I take one hour watch & then he is up again.

I go in the galley and prepare a batch of yogurt to brew. I try not to think too much about my life. Is this really what I want to be doing? Is it worth it? It so often feels too hard, too uncomfortable, not relaxing, the elements too intense. Either wind or sea. Fortunately the inside of the atoll does not have big waves. So despite the strong wind, I did not get seasick. It did whip up the last 45 minutes as the channel to the south anchorage separated from the little strip of land & we rocked around a bit. Not comfortable, but not liking the conditions is very different from feeling seasick. I am not seasick – goody.

As we approach the anchorage we speak on radio to the big power boat here. Bruce and Alene on \”Migration\” are diving the pass. He gave us some tips on navigating down to the southwest anchorage. The wind has not stopped blowing 20 knots all day. We are in 12 feet of water, very clear & I hope we set our anchor & chain down in the sand between the coral heads. It is aquamarine beautiful. Bruce & Alene came by after their dive. They said it was kind of tough having the dinghy along (on the surface) due to the strong cross wind. We took their tanks & will fill them, since they don\’t have a compressor. I do not want to dive while the wind is so strong. Plus, I want to see that Scott is better & fully fit to dive for sport. If he was more sick we would not have moved today, but he really did not want to \”keep them waiting\” any longer. Friends Mary & David, Karen & Graham will likely be heading down here in a day or two. Scott slept several hours this afternoon & is just now stirring. I will go see what he feels like eating. Poor guy.

Cindy & Scott