Apataki

OK, this is getting ridiculous.

Today we left Manihi and motorsailed south in basically no wind for 70 miles to Apataki, an atoll in the middle of the Tuamatos. We are now anchored in the corner of a 100 square mile lagoon. We see another sailboat anchored 4 miles away from us. Otherwise there is no one here. No one. No fishing boats, no fires on shore, no nothing. There is spectacular sky, palm trees on the shore, and 100 square miles of mirrored sea surface, just there.

It’s a little past sunset. Jenna is editing photos. I am cooking frozen Costco organic carrots, Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley and Double Takedown Yellowfin Tuna (thanks again Rich and Dan!). Leo is doing comparative fractions. Hazel is assembling toys into various dessert combinations. We just finished listening to Alicia Keys, and the Lumineers are now on. It’s Friday, which means Family Movie Night. It will be a musical from our Warner Brothers Musical Collection. I am leaning towards “Viva Las Vegas”, Jenna is suggesting “The Music Man” or “Singing in the Rain”. L and H want “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

We are very happy. Are only regret is that we are not sharing this in person with our friends. Friends: please get your collective acts together and come join us for as long as you’d like. You won’t regret it.

In case you were wondering, Manihi was wonderful. When we woke up after our night arrival, the Oyster at our anchorage was gone. For the next 4 days we were the only sailboat there. I had the pleasure of meeting Xavier, the retired French Navy admiral who runs the Sailmail Manihi station from his private island in the atoll. He was incredibly kind in helping us navigate safely to an anchorage at night and then showing me around the compound he has been building with his wife for the last few years. We met Fernando, the local baker/fisherman/black pearl farmer/Herbalife rep who brought a barrel of 200 liters of diesel out to Sophie, then manually siphoned it into our tanks, then took me, L and H grouper fishing outside of the pass at sunset because he’s a fisherman and “if you don’t work you don’t make money.” We caught 3 fish in 15 minutes. L pulled in 2, and H pulled in 1. There was one other boat out there, and they caught a 40 pound yellowfin. Their technique involves a baited hook at 120 feet, and when the they get a hit they release the rest of the line tied to a 20 pound piece of coral along with a big buoy. They landed the fish and were happy.

To enter a lagoon in an atoll in the Tuamotos, you have to go through a pass. Passes here can be pretty hairy, because currents can run as high as 8 knots and there can be razor sharp (meaning hull piercing) coral on either side. And there are no easily accessible tide books. So needless to say I was pretty focused as we entered the northern Apataki pass when the biggest dolphin I have ever seen jumped clear into the air 5 feet off Sophie’s port bow. If dolphins were animals, then this one was a horse. It was that big. And it had a friend. So we are motorsailing into the Apataki equivalent of Active Pass, Jenna is running for her camera to get horse-dolphin dressage shots, and Hazel suddenly appears on the trampoline. We made it through.

In terms of reading, Jenna and I just finished Jeanette Winterson’s “Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?” It’s a powerful, moving memoir from the English writer most famous for the novel “Oranges are Not the Only Fruit”. My daughter Sara gave it to us. In the book, Jeanette describes her local library reading quest through the canon of English literature via an A-Z route. When she got to “N” and started to read Nabokov, she actually went to the librarian and complained that he was so bad he didn’t deserve to be included in the category of English literature.

What’s way funny for me is that the next book on my reading list is Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir “Speak, Memory”, courtesy of my son Max. He said it’s one of the best memoirs ever written. It’s been literally sitting on top of the anti-Nabokov book on my bedside for the last 3 months. I will read it.

I love all of my children.

I do want to point out that my beloved firstborn daughter Sara decided 5 years ago that she wanted to pursue a career where she could make a difference in the world by becoming a health care professional, with a special focus on helping women. This decision required a journey involving post-BA science classes in Worcester, Mass. followed by 3 years at Yale’s nursing school. She finishes within the next month. Words can’t begin to describe how incredibly proud I am of her and what she has accomplished. The world is a better place because of her.

Back on Sophie, “The Music Man” won the draw for Family Movie Night tonight. H and L started out being laser-focused watching it. I am thinking of all of my Iowa friends, starting with JB. You know, I’ve still never been to that state.

By the time the movie is almost over, it’s just me and Hazel. She assumes that the more she watches, the more chocolate she’ll get. The next time she asks, I am going to offer some fish.

2 thoughts on “Apataki

  1. What a marvelous blog you are doing – sharing your trip. We were gathered at a friend’s house and Tove’ said “Hey, you guys might like to read my neighbor’s blog about their sailing around the world” voyage. She forwarded your site and I have just spent the past hour reading my way from San Diego to the Marietas (sp?)! What a treat! To be there – vicariously – and remembering some of our favorite sails on our boat. We had a couple of sailboats over the years, recently donated the last one – the one we learned to sail on. It had been trailered since we bought the larger boat, lng since sold, and since we’re now in our 70s it seemed unlikely we’d get her in the water again. So Chere Amie is gone to give someone else the joy that one feels when sailing. I love the menu comments, the home school bits, how hot it is, the swims in warm water, the descriptions of the land visits and I can enjoy it all and not even break a sweat! So thanks for sharing. You’re on my favorites now and I’ll be checking in. Is there a mailing address somewhere out there where I could send you a letter? Ardi Butler

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