Atoll Life

I heard a little ditty the other day that I’d never heard before. My reaction was, ooh, I quite like the sound of that, I’ll jot it down as there maybe the bones of blog post in that, sometime in the future. 

When we worked away a lot, I recall exhaling quietly going into conference centre rooms or corporate headquarters where ‘cheesy motivational posters’ or corporate values were displayed. I know the intention is to inspire staff and visitors. But they often missed the mark completely. They so often weren’t genuine. I found them shallow and insincere. (For the purposes of balance I do know at least one company who can hold their heads high….. Nando’s 😀)

I once went to a meeting in Barclays Head Office in Canary Wharf. In the foyer were three or four words spelled out in meter high individual blocks. As I entered through the door, the word ‘Integrity’ was in bang in my line of sight. It was very soon after the banking scandal, and surprise surprise,  when there was little or no integrity in how the banks went about their business. ‘You’re going to have to work a bit harder than just putting a few buzz words in your foyer’. At that particular moment in time, I didn’t believe them. Deliver or act in a way that you say you’re going to, or forget it! Credibility shot. 

The ditty that I referred to earlier is this. People are with us for ‘Season’s, Reason’s or a Lifetime’. Made me think about people we’ve met on this trip. And then what constitutes Helen’s wider world. Dave and I  often make friends that are with us for a ‘season’, a period of time. The family on a Dutch boat fit this category nicely. Four of the smiliest people you could possibly meet, they are off further west. Our paths may cross again. Do hope so. 

They called up today on the radio as they headed out of the north pass on Fakarava. We were inside the lagoon heading to the south pass. A loud tuneful version of voices blasting out Happy Birthday came through on channel 18. It’s Dave’s turn to get older today. 

We will have steak and salad for dinner tonight. That’s a treat. Just to clarify…the salad is the treat.  We bought some freshies. 12 tomatoes, 5 cucumbers, a big lettuce, 4 heads of pak choi and a water melon. This constituted at least one item of everything that was available. We are now giving up sailing to pay for our freshies. Cost ….. have a guess? $35. In sterling that’s about £27.50. 

Not much grows in the Tuamotus. Enjoy your 35p tomatoes from Lidl in the UK.  But you don’t get a Pacific Island vista thrown in! Not complaining. 😀

Coconuts

We’ve been learning stuff about the coconut tree. From Bob and Mina. This tree really is an all rounder providing materials for shelter, fire, food and comfort. Incidentally, they look good in photographs too. If you grew up close to Scotland in the UK, let me tell you, the coconut tree is pretty darned exotic.

I’d always wondered why coconut trees grow at such bizarre angles. Well apparently they have enormous root systems. The roots will hold up trunks that point out almost horizontally. If a tree ‘falls’, the root system is never dislodged. Instead, the tree will snap somewhere on its trunk.

Nothing else grows around them. They spread out their roots, claiming all the water in the earth so the bulbous bit at the bottom of the tree is ram jammed with liquid. Making them very heavy too.

The wood is hard and good for making things and the fronds can be used as roofing materials as well as being woven to produce baskets, place mats and floor coverings.

The coconut itself goes through several phases …. When young, I understand this to be when they are green, they are filled with water. Flatten the bottom so the nut will stand on a surface without rolling away, hack the top off to create a drinking hole and voila, you have your glass and drink in one. Adding rum apparently can enhance the taste. Umbrellas are optional. No plastic of course.

Having drunk the liquid, the nut can be cut in two to reveal the meat. In a young nut, the flesh is soft and moist, bright white, quite thin and comes away easily when scrapped with a spoon. The older the nut, the thicker the meat requiring a heartier spoon action and the taste is stronger. Young is better in my book. I’m assuming the liquid and the flesh are mixed together to make coconut milk which we buy in cans. And added to oils and potions to create suntan cream, shampoo and associated products.

As the nut gets older, the inside changes so there’s no liquid but a solid-ish candy floss type substance inside. This is called copra and is used to feed chickens, dogs and hermit crabs.

Dried nuts burn really well and of course dried shells provide excellent sound effects for horse clippety clopping. The Knights that say Nee being a prime example.

There endeth my coconut tree information broadcast.

87 year old man

There’s a novel you may have read called “The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window”. It’s a rip roaring tale of a man with a remarkable history who lurches from one crazy unbelievable situation to another. He finds himself meeting prominent people, being at significant historical events and even at 100 years old, the crazy madness hasn’t stopped. I think we have met the real life 100 year old man. Only difference is he’s just 87.

Our new friends, Bob and Mina, who’s a mere 75, live on Takaroa, an atoll in the Tuamotus. We’re anchored off their property in the lagoon. As a pair they are bright and sparkly with an ongoing zest for life. Both have amazing stories to tell.

The iceberg tip of Bob’s tales include being a stowaway on a ship to Australia when he was 16, surviving an explosion at sea then rowing to land which took three days, meeting Donald Trump in a restaurant back in the ‘70’s and making money and losing it again in the Pearl Farming Industry.

Mina equally has a colourful history. Accidentally having breakfast with the King of Samoa, playing golf for French Polynesia all round the world and meeting Princess Margaret while working for Air Tahiti at a time when Maggie’s drinking was not in the public eye, are just a few of her stories.

Together they are a joy to be around. A story to provide evidence. They have a crack in the bottom of their boat. It’s 3 miles across the lagoon to the village and they are the only people who live on this side of the lagoon. The boat is their lifeline.

Bob is upside down in the boat investigating. He’s struggling to get out as he’s wedged in a small space. Mina is trying to help him by pulling his tee shirt but it’s tightening around his neck. When we catch up with them they are falling around laughing. “She thinks she’s helping me, but actually she’s killing me!” reports Bob in between guffaws of mirth.

We’ve had breakfast with them once and lunch twice, not to mention the spent time just passing the time of day. Lunch in true french style lasts several hours because of all the chatting.

To get here we initially followed the marked channel from the dock. We hit the dodgy shallow dogleg bang on high water slack. Even then, the water is dancing fairly manically. Coming across the lagoon, I was on the bow spotting any ‘bommies’ which are areas of solid coral. You want to avoid these.

It was all more straightforward than I’d anticipated. But still a slightly anxious time. The reward, an anchorage in blue green clear water. Farrow and Ball, Little Green, Dulux and Crown do not have a selection of paint colours this vivid. A vista of beach and palm trees, the full on Pacific island experience. And nestling in the trees behind, Bob and Mina to entertain us.

We are the only sail boat here on this atoll which makes it even more special too.

Photos to follow. We have very limited comms here so I’m sending this via Lisa on the sat phone email. Thanks Lisa.