Gambier III

Did we have any eye brow raising moments in the Gambiers? Well there were a couple.

We did have a Tsunami warning. This ironically was just after my sweet bro had posted a blog for me and in true younger brother style, decided to post a cheeky eye catching title which included the word tsunami.😀  

I recall the cause being an earthquake emanating from islands near-ish to New Zealand. There is a warning system in place across the Pacific which alerts locations of potential arrival times of a tsunami wave and a predicted height. The earthquake took place around 9am in the morning and the arrival time for Gambier was predicted for something like 4.04pm with a potential wave height of 30cm. The information was surprisingly precise. 

We were anchored out on the reef by ourselves off a moto called Kouaku. The anchor was well dug in around 8m, in a sand patch. We knew there was potential for a wave surge as we’d had emails from various people including my brother!

Around 3.30pm, I turned on the depth sounder to record depths at 5 minute intervals. By 4.30pm there was no significant change and I was bored so we made the executive decision we were all okay and went for a walk on the beach. 

Nothing untoward transpired. Gambier is surrounded by an outer reef so if there was any surge, either it had dissipated by the time it reached us or the reef itself flattened the water.

Still that was our first Tsunami warming. And if I’m honest, it wasn’t something I’d ever thought about before.

We also had a corroded engine part which allowed sea water to come from the outside of the boat, into the inside of the boat. This is not a good thing! Sea water should always remain outside. It’s one of the ways to keep a boat and it’s crew happy and floating. 

We had a mad 45 minutes working out where the water was coming from with some much appreciated help from friends in the anchorage. Thankfully the corroded piece was identified and with sea cocks closed, Dave was able to engineer a plate which solved the problem the next day. 

And this section is for you techy boaty people. The bracket which supports our meaty 250 amp alternator cracked meaning we had to revert to using the 65 amp one. This is the equivalent of having to drink supermarket own brand tea bags instead of twinings earl grey, ie, unsatisfying.  

The bracket is made of stainless steel and is at least 10mm thick so we were pretty surprised to see it had fractured. We were motoring across the lagoon dodging pearl farm buoys when a horrible rattly noise grinds out from the engine bay. Well that too has had a fix, with a temporary splint made and bolted through. Fingers crossed it holds till we get to the land of welding, which may well be Tahiti. We couldn’t find anyone in Gambier who could or would weld stainless. 

That’s probably it for Gambier. We’re back in the Tuamotos. Well that’s not strictly true. The boat and Dave are in Fakarava in the Tuamotus. I hopped on a plane yesterday and am actually in Tahiti. Back tomorrow after a little city break with ‘the girls’ and an awful lot of shopping for boat things. 

Gambier II

Think about your shoe collection? Are you a closet Imelda Marcos? I was assessing my footwear collection. This was prompted by the fact that my options are mostly deteriorating or deteriorated. Glue and soles do not do well in hot climates. I have become a part time cobbler. My flip flops have been renovated twice, my walking shoes stuck back together with 5200 and my sandals have had their velcro tarted up. Last time we were with 300 miles of a shop selling anything other than cheap flip flops was October. Cobbling becomes a necessity. 

The upside of living in the tropics and on a boat is the preferred choice of footwear is none. I’m guessing, 80% of the time we live with bare feet. Always on the boat, always on other people’s boats and often if you’re going ashore to the beach, no shoes are necessary. 

The order of usage is thus:-

  1. Bare feet
  2. Flip flops 
  3. = Sandals / Walking shoes 
  4. Fins
  5. Crocs (good for walking on rough coral beaches)
  6. Proper shoes – NEVER

It’s likely to be another couple of months before we can become shoe fetishists when we get close to a full on shopping experience again. I’m hoping my repairs hold on till then.

In Gambier, my walking shoes often got priority billing and bumped temporarily up the list. As we approached from the north, my eyes lit up at green hills and if you listened very carefully there was a quiet whisper calling “climb me”.  

Gambier has several well marked trails so I was very very happy to roam around the countryside, alone or with friends, collecting mangos and lemons and avocados and pamplemousse and raspberries on the way. The most populous ‘Helen Hike’ saw 17 (2 x Brits, 5 x Canadians, 7 x Kiwis, 3 x Austrians) head up a hill called Mokoto then traverse and descend the forest on a recently cleared path. Problem was the path clearing hadn’t been finished. The path abruptly ended in the middle of the woods meaning a thrashing and bashing back down to the road. Good job Tom had brought his machete along. People remember that walk! Sue and Bryan thought they’d signed up for a little gentler meandering. Apologies chums!

Kiting was the other main activity. We spent quite a bit of time out on the outer reef off a little moto called Tauna. This is where ‘kite school’ continued from Amanu. Dave was able to launch his kite off the back of either Slingshot or Due South, two expert kiting families, including kids. I was in the dinghy providing rescue services. I figured if I put the time in now, there’ll be stamps in the book that I can cash in one day. 

We spent many happy days hanging out with these families, mucking around, having beach bbq’s and when the wind died, we both had a go at wakeboarding behind one of their larger dinghies. There are pictures of Dave in action but none of me. I did get up and do some runs, honest guv. No shoes required for wakeboarding. 


Gambiers Archipelago – Instalment 1

Da dah! Radio silence no more. I’m back in your inbox, bothering your browsing schedule after a gap of a few months. This means we have found 4G / WiFi to upload and download. The Gambiers deliver many positive superlatives, however the comms don’t make this shortlist, or the medium or long list for that matter. Crack on Elon Musk with your broadband satellites in the sky. 

We arrived in the first week in February. And left 3 months later. A longer stay than we’d imagined, extended primarily because we were able to get vaccinated while there. Impressive that a remote pacific archipelago was at that time, offering the Pfizer to visiting yachties. No cost. No questions. So thank you Gambier.

Having been away from this writing lark for a while, I’m unsure as to whether I should write a broad brush Gambian experience or pick a few stories and share them over a couple of episodes. Truth is I’m just going start writing and see where my brain takes me. 

The piccies should provide a bit of a visual impact to the kind of things we got up to here. The blues and greens of the land and seascape are intense and striking. The sand beaches brochure enhancing. It’s a crazy beautiful vista to feast your eyes on. 

What’s it like …..

In all the time we were in Gambier, we didn’t lock the boat or the tender. I definitely like living in such a world, even if this approach to security gives you the heebie-jeebies. Our experience was friendly generous locals. Giving away fruit seems to be part of the culture. I’d have a little conversation with someone and arrive back at the boat with a bag of mangos. 

To provide a balanced, more informed view of the place, the gendarmes we were told deal with around a few hundred investigations each year. When they are not stood outside their office drinking coffee and chatting which it seems fills a high proportion of their day.  Many are alcohol related…..two blokes get pissed and punch each other and domestic violence is sadly also prevalent we were told.

Approx. 1400 people live across a few islands, which are no more than about 10 miles apart. Rikitea, the village on the main island of Mangarava has a Marie, Gendarmerie, Clinic, Post Office, School, no bank or ATM and 5 small shops selling food. They all sell pretty much the same stuff.  3 of the shops are ‘hatches” in that you stand outside and ask for your items in your best french combined with vigorous pointing. The other two allow you to peruse the premises. Think Arkwright’s village shop in Cromford Derbyshire (if you know this fine establishment) as comparable for size and selection to the biggest shop called Jojo’s. No Thornbridge Ales available here though. Just Hinano lager at scary expensive prices. $3.40 for a vessel the size of a cola can. 

I liked going into Jojo’s as the women who serve always greet me. “Bonjour Helene, ca va?” I shared some photos of Cromford with them one day when it was quiet so they are my buddies now. Jojo’s is the one place we could pick up a modicum of internet. We perch outside round the back staring at screens trying to sort out life’s intricacies that only be done electronically. It was often a fruitless escapade.  I have no idea what’s happening in the Archers. 7th February was the last time I downloaded radio. (Dave thinks this a good thing!)

We discovered an online shopping facility based in Tahiti which will put your order on the boat.  There are two delivery boats that visit Gambier, both on an approximate 3 week cycle. We’ll give that a go we thought. Prices were certainly cheaper but more importantly, there was a much greater choice. Internet food shopping – should be straightforward. Dream on. The internet here rules or rather it doesn’t. It took us several attempts over 3 days to select our items and put them in a virtual basket. That was the easy bit. Actually paying for a selection of cheese and half a dozen bottles of wine was like trying to find a picture of Putin with a shirt on. Tricky.

The shopping site transferred us to a bank payment site and then came the spinning wheel of gloom. There just weren’t enough electrons to make this happened. 5 minutes later, the process crashed, took us back to the shopping site where the helpful software had wiped our basket so there’s 3 days of work spinning away in the ether. 

There’s a deadline of 12 lunchtime tomorrow to get our order accepted, paid for and lined up for the ship. We’re back at square one. And friends ask what we do all day. 😀

In the end, we used the sat phone to ring the UK and chat to Dave’s brother who was able to use our credit card details to satisfy the cheese order. Bloody complicated.

I’m happy to say our order did arrive. We milled around on the dock for three hours as containers and forklifts and barrels etc were unloaded by crane. But it was all there and the wine is being rationed according.

So next time your internet is a little slow at home and you have to wait 14 more nano seconds than normal to look at dancing cats or read the latest Laura Kunsberg article, imagine Gambier. 

That’s it for instalment 1. Non sure how many there’ll be. Keep tuned.