We arrived in Fakarava 2 days ago. Fakarava is the second largest of the Tuamotos and will be our last stop before we get to Papeete to join Max and Becca, our first visitors since the boys left us in Nuku Hiva.
Right now we are anchored in front of the little town of Rotoava. There are four other boats here, but three of them appear to be permanent residents of the harbor. Fakarava seems to have a bit of a tourism industry going, the first we’ve really seen since our arrival in French Polynesia. In addition to the 2 stores in town, there are 3 dive shops and a snack bar. Four hotels are farther down the lagoon, and we actually see people on vacation and not from other boats wandering around town.
There is no diesel though, so we will have to mostly sail until we can fill her up in Papeete.
What Rotoava does have is Wifi. Incredibly crisp, fast, cheap Wifi. That’s the main reason why we are hanging out here for a couple of days before we go spend a week anchored off the pink sand beaches on the southern end of the island.
We had gone over two weeks without access to the Internet. But after spending a bunch of time yesterday on Facebook, email, amazon.com and boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox, I have to say that I haven’t really missed the Internet that much. I’ll be just fine next week without it while lounging on the pink sands.
On our way to Fakarava, we wound up staying in Apataki for a week, including 5 nights moored in front of Hassan’s pearl farm/boat yard. (That’s a photo of an Apataki rainbow above). A low pressure system passed through the area while we were there, bringing torrential rains and squally gusts ranging up to 25-30 knots. It seems that all of the anchorages on Apataki are marked by huge coral heads that climb over 20 feet up from the sea floor, and we heard stories of boats that sank there after their anchor chains wrapped around the coral and then broke during storms. We were very happy to be moored in a safe, protected and beautiful spot during the bad weather.
We had a great week hanging out in Apataki. The kids had good home schooling sessions. There was excellent snorkeling every day by the shore. The locals gave us coconuts, papayas and bananas, then sold us eggs that were laid that morning. We never even bothered going into the village.
But we wanted to get to Fakarava, and when we had what we thought was a good weather window we left Apataki via it’s southern pass and then sailed 20 miles upwind to the Island of Toau where we spent a night. The following day we motorsailed around the top of Toau and then sailed another 25 miles upwind to get here. During this last run, we had 2 reefs in the main and a reef in the jib due to the 20-25 knot easterly winds and 6-10 foot waves. For us, this type of open ocean sailing has now become quite normal. Sophie likes to be reefed, and Jenna and I just hung out up top and read books (Portrait of a Lady for her, the Nabokov memoir for me).
We learned in Fakarava that the small “sharks” hanging out under our boat were actually large remora fish and were completely harmless (unless they tried to attach their 6 inch head suckers to your back or thigh), so we immediately jumped back into the water around Sophie for over an hour. It’s absolutely the best way to beat the 100 degree midday heat.
We did have a bit of a tragedy here the other night. I accidentally dropped my beloved tactical flashlight — the Chinese-made, lithium ion powered device that Karl Riebeling gave me — into the water off of Sophie’s back step. I was tossing a small piece of raw tuna into the water to see what kind of fish action I could get (remoras, of course) when the flashlight slipped out of my hand. I watched it blink as is descended the 50 feet down to the ocean floor below us, then watched it blink down there for the next 2 hours before I finally went to bed. It’s probably still down there, blinking forever.
Jenna and I are both a week in to 7 Weeks to 100 Push-Ups. We are both sore. I’ve lost 20 pounds since San Diego. Hazel is learning how to be a blonde. Leo’s hair as it gets longer has developed curls matching those of Shirley Temple in her prime. Jenna looks fabulous.
From a food perspective, we are doing quite well. Last night we had organic chicken breasts with roasted red peppers and onion in a Trader Joe’s Thai Red Curry Sauce. We’ve been working on some of the tuna we’ve caught and have had that a few times in the last week. Jenna made a carbonara with some of the farm fresh eggs, and we also had a pesto.
We provisioned almost 2 months ago, and I think we have enough food to make it to Papeete. In the freezer there is still a pork loin, 3 pounds of organic hamburger, 4 nights of tuna and a couple of chicken breasts. There is one remaining hamsteak in the fridge. (We started out with 6). We have enough pasta, rice, crackers, canned olives, fruit and veggies along with various boxes of “Pomi” brand tomato sauces to last us for the next 2 years.
We also have decided that Jenna’s wine collection that is now on the boat will go bad within the next year due to the tropical heat. So we have to drink it. I have to say it’s kind of ridiculous to open the bilge and sort through various bottles of Leonetti and Opus One to determine which one goes into the fridge to cool down before dinner.
Beer here is expensive, so we are not drinking too much of that. I did buy a couple of cartons of local fruit juice, and they contributed to some nice Mai-Tai’s the other night.
Jenna says the ice maker has transformed the tropical boating experience for her. We run it for a couple of hours every other day. It draws only 12 amps from the batteries. We then have these beautiful ice cubes whenever we want them. It makes a material difference in our 90-degrees-in-the shade lives.
We’ve only been gone for 2 months, but it feels like 2 years. Tahiti, the Cooks, Tonga and Fiji all lie before us. It keeps getting better.