Island Life, South Fakarava Atoll, Tuamotu Islands…..

Dear F&F,
July 28-29, 2009

We met the dive master from the little dive center here, at Tetamanu. There are beach shacks for land tourists, the French call it a \”Pension\” (pronounce pen-see-own). Marc is very effusive, fluent in English & offered us lots of information. Bruce drove Alene, Scott & I over to the pass when we thought the incoming tide was, the right time for diving. But it was still going out. We spoke to Marc & he explained that sometimes the tide is not \”on schedule\” due to the wind & waves coming into the lagoon. Sometimes it needs to flow out longer or not flow in at all. While we stood in our wetsuits & talked to him nearly 1 hour, the tide did finally turn & start to come in. The sky was overcast & it was nearly 4:00 p.m., so not much light below, but it wonderful to see the enormous coral reef areas. We did not see the big gathering of sharks that are famous here when the incoming tide is strong. But we plan to stay around a while, so eventually we\’ll hit it right for the sharks. We stayed down so long & it was getting dark. Poor Bruce topside in the dinghy, wore prescription sunglasses & did not have a watch, so he was worried that he lost us. When we surfaced, we hailed him with our \”dive alerts\”, (very loud surface whistles operated by the air in our scuba tanks) & he came zooming over quickly, very relieved.

I cooked steak for dinner as I was tired of the bland diet I\’ve been feeding Scott\’s delicate tummy. Of course he could not resist the smell but had really bad stomach pain after, so that was a bad idea. Poor guy. Thankfully the pain & roiling is not constant. I put the hot pack on his tummy & it helped. I try not to think what we would do out here if either of us were seriously sick or injured. We do have a well equipped pharmacy onboard.

Bruce & Alene offered to bring us dessert for the 2nd night in a row. We declined last night due to Scott\’s tummy. But this was their last night so we said yes. What am I some kind of fool that would turn down dessert twice?! Bruce loves to cook & had made ginger creme brulee. Two with coconut, he & I each took those. Alene & Scott had the non-coconut. Oh My God…I thought I was at the Eclectic Caf (favorite place in North Hollywood)! He burned the sugar with his little butane torch right in my galley. It was amazing. What a treat! We then showed them our underwater videos & photos .They really oohed & aahhed since they are divers too. It was a nice wrap up with them. We may run into them down the road, since even though they plan to spend this winter in New Zealand, they will return to Tonga & the Cooks the following season, which is where we should be then too. A big world, but a small community.

July 29
We took photos as our friends on trimaran \”Migration\” set sail. Then Mary announced on the radio that there would be palm weaving on the beach at 9:00 a.m. Mary was a teacher and has three grown kids, so is a natural to come up with ideas to help keep the three children onboard \”Elvis the Gecko\” entertained.

Poor Scott was lying down with another tummy ache. He is really holding up well in spite of some kind of flu or Dengue Fever. Plus having a wrenched back. I am forever impressed by how happy he is almost all the time. It is my privilege to live with my wonderful guy. I simply cannot stay grumpy for long with his constant exclamations of love & joy. I did not think we would join in. But when she specifically hailed us asking if we would be joining the shore event, I looked at Scott who said \”Sure!\” He then leaped up getting ready to go. I love this guy to pieces.

The standard Windows XP screen background could be a photo of this place. Pinkish white sandy beach with palm trees surrounded by turquoise blue water. It was a quick dinghy ride. A wet landing, but no surf. Very calm, shallow water. Graham had used his knife to supply the palm fronds. Mary & Karen had already woven a couple of items. The kids had not arrived yet. I was amazed that they had remembered the pattern from watching the locals last week, but Mary sews & is crafty. Scott & I decided to take a walk. It was so good to stretch the legs. It felt surreal. Here I am on a tropical island that is beautiful; with people I like & love. I breathed in & out, soaking up the wonderful moment. Not wishing I were somewhere else. Be where your atoll is (hee hee!!!). Simply being in the moment.

It is glaring to me sometimes that happiness is completely internal. Here I have all the outer trappings of a dream life: nice yacht, all the toys, finances to make it happen, freedom to sail where we want, luxury to stay as long as we like and yet sometimes I struggle with moods. Just like anyone else. But I get glimpses of paradise. There are those magic moments when I can recognize that we are in the zone, flow or whatever. Scott is a great at being in the moment. Yes, he is a planner. But if we have a misunderstanding & raised voices, it is over for him immediately. I\’ve noticed that often I do not get over it that fast. Why on earth would I want to hang on to a bad feeling? Let it pass. If I look at him, genuinely look at him, in the next moment he is smiling at me, telling me how much he loves me & sincerely wants me to do whatever I need to, to be happy. Lucky girl and I know it.

We took mask & snorkels to the beach. I also brought my short fins, sunscreen & bug spray. Fortunately there were not too many bugs, just a few flies. After our walk I put on my gear & went in. Just in my bathing suit. Scott usually insists (understandably) that I wear the shark shield when swimming. It will zap me if I have bare skin. I have often let the shark shield factor discourage me from swimming since I have to put on full coverage of neoprene and/or lycra. But here Scott said it is so shallow & clear by the beach that he would allow me to swim in my Speedo alone. Yippee!!! I cannot remember the last time I got to swim like I was in a pool. It took me a while to get deep enough to do a full arm stroke. As I got to deeper water where I could truly swim, I felt a surge of life force throughout my whole body. How invigorating! ALIVE! I smiled & floated over the coral heads, watching the little fish. I saw a few beautiful clams with blue markings. I love swimming, it makes me sooooo happy! I love diving too, but the physicality of swimming fills a need that only swimming can. I went all the way to where the big boats are anchored. David, who did not go ashore, waved me over for a visit. I don\’t know what I am going to do when David & Mary sail off in a few days. I will miss them terribly. Yet how fantastic to have friends living in Scotland! They plan to circumnavigate over a couple more years and then return to their home in Scotland.

I had left Scott standing on the shore talking to Martin, owner of \”E.T.G.\” (Elvis the Gecko). I didn\’t know if Scott would realize I swam back to the boats or not, but I left David after a chat & glass of water. Went to our boat to unfog my mask with drops & started swimming back. Halfway back Scott met me in the dinghy. Of course he\’d been watching me all along. He was happy to see his girl with a giant smile on her face. I have been a homesick & gloomy recently, so the dip was very therapeutic for my body & soul.

He had forgotten my bag of towels, etc. on the shore, so we went back again. Mary & the kids made a wonderful assortment of palm frond woven items. The youngest girl, Gloria only 6, was so proud of her productions.

We came back to the boat, had lunch & Scott is napping. We aren\’t diving today due to the time of the incoming tide. I think we\’ll dive early tomorrow & maybe the crew of E.T.G. Josh & Claire will join us. So you see how surrounded I am by interesting, friendly people in our own little floating community. It is transient & will drift apart very soon. But for now it is here & I am enjoying it fully. The call is for 4:00 p.m. drinks with a bonfire ashore. I have some endive I think I will fill the leaves with cut up beets & cheese as an appetizer. I learned it from another boater; very colorful. I am hoarding my food a bit since we could stay out in these islands up to another 2 months, with no shopping opportunities. The other three boats will all be in Tahiti in one week.

It is amazing that I find so much to write about from a two days on a small atoll. This is my journal. I hope you find it interesting.

Cindy & Scott