Other people’s tales

Last night we met a couple on a boat who spent the lockdown back in 2020 on Tahanea. We know Tahanea as we spent over three weeks there recently. There’s no village or permanent settlement. Local Polynesians visit occasionally to crop the coconuts. For the majority of the general population this would be a very out there place. 

This couple had provisioned up in anticipation of a two week stay. Then the world went lockdown crazy which they heard about as they had a sat phone to receive email. They made the decision to stay put with two other boats, not returning to another atoll with a village or Tahiti where strict movement restrictions were prevalent. They chose a version of remote Castaway life till travel and freedoms were permitted again. Alone (well with two other boats) for two and a half months. 

We listened to stories of daily spear fishing, crabbing, coconut collecting, rationing supplies of food and fuel. We have pondered if we could do this and be comfortable. As long as your water maker keeps going, or there’s rain fall, it would be doable.Limited but possible. I don’t think we’ll try it as an experiment though. Says Helen as I munch my way though a bag of shop bought ready to eat moist apricots. 

Another Tahanea tale involved a wingfoil. A different boat and people we count as good friends now. Let me paint a picture of this if you’re unfamiliar. 

The wingfoil kit uses a surf board but has a 1 meter mast and a carbon fibre hydrofoil attached at the other end of the mast. The foil bit looks a like the shape of a basic aeroplane The rider has an inflatable kite which resembles a Batman wing. By holding this kite to the wind, the board moves forward and when there’s enough speed, due to differences in pressure like an aeroplane, the mast rises out of the water so the rider is standing on the surf board which is 1m out of the water. 

The dad and his daughter were wing foiling in the pass at Tahanea. Both are pretty competent riders and had gone to the pass as there were some small waves to practice jumping. 

Dad is cruising happily along when suddenly, bang, he’s knocked off his board by….wait for it….. a large grey shark. He’s startled, very scared and keen to get back on his board in a millisecond. Which he does only to be knocked off again when he gets moving. He’s bricking it and shouts to his daughter who doesn’t know what is happening to go back to the big boat and get the dinghy. 

Third time he thrashes and scrabbles back up onto his board and manages to hold it together enough to get back into the lagoon away from the pass and head towards their boat.  Thankfully the inflatable kite hasn’t been punctured so he still has propulsion. 

He gets back to his boat in one piece with his heart thumping monstrously in his chest and adrenaline coursing through his body. No physical injuries, substantially more grey hairs and a rather terrifying tale to tell. On examination, the black hydrofoil has sharkie teeth marks. Dad thinks the shark mistook it for a fast moving fish and ‘struck’ to catch dinner. The foil is carbon and very hard. Not soft and fishy like a jack or a tuna or a grouper. So it may have have necessitated a trip to the shark dentist for the watery predator. An uncomfortable munch. 

Dad says they are staying away from foiling in passes now. Understood. 

We are in a bit of a holding pattern waiting for May when cyclone season is over and we can head west. Moving for the sake of moving feels a bit pointless at the moment. Kiting, wakeboarding, boat jobs, walking and generally hanging out is how we fill some of our days. We watched the space station fly over a few nights ago. It rose at 19.12 in the NW and disappeared at 19.19 in the SE. It’s a speedy beast. That’s two space station mentions in consecutive blogs. 

Final space reference. I just read a book called The Martian by Andy Weir. Apparently there’s a film too although I know nothing about it. The book is about a bloke who gets stuck on Mars. It’s a compelling amusing romping read. If you get stuck on a remote planet being a botanist and an engineer are helpful skills. There’s not much call for social media influencers or hedge fund managers if you’re stranded and in a pickle on Mars. Unsurprisingly.

Come on Jacinda

I woke up a few days ago to the news that Barry Cryer had died. He was one funny man. Dave and I once went to see him tell stories at Buxton Opera House. Colin Sell accompanied him on the piano. Another “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue stalwart”. There was no pizzaz or razzmatazz. Just a bloke sat on a stool in his v-necked Marks and Spencer’s jumper, holding the audience in his hand with his impeccable comic timing, straight faced naughtiness and his ability to laugh at himself. It was a good night out.

This morning is not a good morning in. We planned to sail to Harifa from the main village in Fakarava for the coming weekend. Up at 5.30. Ashore to buy bread, dump the rubbish with a view to hauling anchor at 6.30. All good till pressing the engine start button illicited nothing. Nada. Silencio. Poor Dave is now scrabbling for his multimeter and opening the battery box. Troubleshooting here we come.

Jacinda announced yesterday that NZ are planning to open their borders this year. A cause for a small whoop of delight on Grace. A fellow sail-ey friend messaged back….”That is the best news ever. She better stick to it or we’re going to punch her lights out 😀”. I like the raw sentiment but I’m not sure how you can do that if you can’t get in. That’s the pedant in me. 

We have started on the paperwork necessary to get west. Fiji entry requires engaging an agent. I contacted one who responded immediately and passed on links to the forms you need to download and fill in. Plus the dosh you need to splash. Prior to Jacinda making the announcement yesterday, I’d also downloaded the necessary forms to get into NZ on the refit exemption. Fingers crossed now, we don’t need to do this any more. Covid is here to stay. The world  media bandied the phrase “waiting for the new normal’. Well there is no waiting. The new normal is now. Crack on. Let us in please. 

What else have we been up to. 

The generator made a strange noise. There’s something about being tuned into noises on the boat. It’s amazing how quickly we pick up on difference. Unusual noises stand out. A rattle, a change in tone, a squeak. They normally mean something is kaput or on its way there. 

A quick check and there’s no water coming out of the exhaust. Press the off button forthwith. The problem turned out to be a broken impeller, a little rubber piece which is a bit like a water wheel pushing sea water round the outside of the engine. To change the impeller takes about 15 minutes. Turn the sea cock off. Remove the outer case. Unscrew the face plate on the water pump. Pull the dodgy impeller out. Insert new one and reverse the process.

However, we ended up with a three day job as part of a bigger overhaul. Flushing the sea water cooling system to remove the silty crap took several hours. Remaking the broken rubber feet that support the generator took a chunk of time. And squeezing it back in its case after hauling it out with a block and tackle was tricky.  But all is good now.

Plus we’ve had some fun wakeboarding behind our dinghy and Dave had cracked upwind when kiting. Both activities offer the possibility of a Superman. Lurching forward out of control with an outstretched body. Kiting when a squall kicks in gets number one status. Shame I have no piccies of Dave jettisoning forwards then splatting before International Rescue, aka me, turns up on the scene.  

And a few bullet points to finish.

  • Thankfully we were unaffected by the Tongan tsunami
  • There’s been lots of squally weather recently with big lightening storms
  • Having hauled out and cleaned the hull in Tahiti, Grace is sailing really well 
  • We have 4kg of cucumbers to eat. Yes, that is a lot.
  • We have written a couple of work proposals recently. That’s a novelty. 
  • Orange and raisin cake is my current cake of choice.
  • We hope to depart for Fiji around May, this year.
  • I just read the International Space Station will crash into the Pacific Ocean in 2031. That’s going to be a big splash.