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.

4 thoughts on “Other people’s tales

  1. Julian Waller says:

    Thank you Alan for explaining that the fetid air that I’m breathing is from Napoleon and Cleopatra, and not last nights Fullers HSB.


  2. Alan Green says:

    Oh By the way, to put it into perspective… There are so many molecules contained in just one breathful of air that if you started counting the molecules at the rate of one molecule a second and you began at the very beginning of the universe (14 billion years ago), you’d be less than a millionth of a percent through counting just now. In fact you’d need to continue counting for over a hundred billion times the timespan our universe has so far existed to get to the final molecule.

    Isn’t science wonderful.

    (PS no, I’m not pissed)


  3. Alan Green says:

    Each breath you exhale contains approximately 25,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of Nitrogen gas. That’s a lot of molecules. So many in fact that due to Brownian motion and weather the atmosphere is thoroughly and randomly mixed over a period of roughly 24 months such that in each breath you take you are breathing in at least one molecule from Cleopatra’s dying breath. And one from Napoleon, and at least ten from the last T Rex to walk the earth.
    In fact, just now, on the other side of the planet, you have just sucked in a nitrogen molecule you last encountered when the nurse slapped you on the backside to start your first post-partum wail.

    Isn’t air wonderful?


  4. Alan Green says:

    The Martian (directed Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon) is one of the very few films that is as good as the book.
    I’ve got the DVD you can borrow when you get back to Blighty.


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