17:300 LTY time (UTC-10) 03:30 UTC
Days #10-12 Otepa, Hao
Location: docked just outside Otepa, on the Hao atoll in the Tuamotu's
Position: 18 05.937S 140 54.721W
Wind: 0-5kts (true) SW
Seas: flat (inside the lagoon)
Sea temp: 84F 29C
Air temp: 84F 29C
With Kestrel and Learnativity snuggled safely in what feels like our very own personal harbour, Isolde, Gabor, Ruby and I were able to use our feet instead of our dinghy’s to get into town. We headed over to Tina & Manu's house for yet another warm welcome. Isolde and I spent the morning plugged into their WiFi connection. Skype call quality seems to always be a coin toss and this morning it went our way so we even got in a few phone calls. Meanwhile, Gabor headed into town to pick up our baguettes and then he went back to the boat to get some work done there. Must admit this is when you realize the challenge of sailing singlehanded in that you need to do EVERY thing yourself and so you just don't get as much done as those who are couples or more onboard. I've tried my best to get Ruby to take on cooking or washing or rust repairs, but my training technique must be lacking as she asserts that Admirals simply don't do that kind of work and goes back to minding the boat.
Back on Learnativity I was busy working away when I became aware of three young kids milling about and trying to get Ruby's attention, which really only takes their presence for her to be madly wagging her tail and wanting to be with them. I invited them aboard and we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening chatting as I showed them the boat and they helped me with my French. Jean-Jacque is about 7, Angelique is about 5 and Gaston is about 10 and they we had a wonderful time for the next few hours. Much to her delight, all three kids discovered that Ruby loved to play keep away and chase with her toys. What a joyful symphony I was treated to as the sounds all mixed together of the three kids giggling and shrieking as Ruby yelped and jumped from toy to toy when each child grabbed one and threw it or held it away from her. Later, I was very impressed with their reading and geography knowledge as we they looked through one of my cruising guides of the area and they immediately recognized the neighboring atolls and passes. Gaston stayed on the longest and wanted to know more about programs I had on the laptop and then I sent them off to their homes which were but a few hundred meters away and I finished up some writing, Emails and made diner.
About 5:30am I became aware of some faint whispering and whistling that seemed to be coming from the cockpit and right above the hatch above my head as I lay in bed enjoying the first morning light as is my habit. So I poked my head up through the hatch and was greeted by the sheepish grins of Jean-Jacque and Gaston who were sitting in the cockpit and doing their best to call Ruby to come out and play again! They were quiet as mice in their bare feet so I had not heard them as they crept on board, but I quickly made it clear that they were not to come on board the boat unless they were asked. We reached an agreement on that and then they and Ruby had fun getting the morning off to a good start.
And what Saturday it was! As promised yesterday, Tony, Manu, Simon, Tina and the girls all showed up about 10am out at our boats with the pickup full will table and chairs and a full complement of Polynesian food. Table and chairs were soon setup on the concreted pad next to Kestrel, and a VERY FULL complement of traditional dishes were laid out and being prepared! The featured item which had got this whole lunch date happening was the very traditional marinated fish dish called "Fafaru" and it was indeed quite the production and specialty. Tony did the honors and explained the whole thing as he prepared it down by the water at the end of the pier where we are docked. The key to this dish is the marinade which needs to be prepared about two weeks ahead of time, but is pretty easy to do. You take some fish parts of tuna, bonito and others and put them in clean sea water, seal them up and leave them to "cure". After 10 days or more you strain the liquid through cheesecloth and that's your marinade! When you're ready to prepare the Fafaru you take a fresh tuna (or other fish too) and cut large thick pieces and place them in the marinade about 1-2 hours ahead of serving to let them soak up the marinade. These are then served sashimi style (raw), usually with a bit of coconut milk or just plain. And yes, they smell just about how you are imagining they would having been marinated in 2 week old fish "juice". We all tried it and they tasted pretty much like they smelled! Not much to either of our very unsophisticated tastes but everyone else loved them. Tony in particular. I think it is likely an acquired taste, no different than something like blue cheese, which I now absolutely adore, but initially turned up my nose at such "rotten" smelling and tasting cheese.
Ahhh, but the Fafaru was but one of many dishes and the large table was groaning under the weight of other traditional dishes lovingly prepared by every member of our gracious guests. Toni had managed to find some breadfruit which is not yet in season and prepared that, Tina made up some Taro, and Manu's mother had made us a dish I did not catch the name of but is made by combining ground coconut meat with flour and then boiling the mixture which produces large pieces a bit like dumplings. Slightly sweet and very much coconut meat tasting. Tony also made up some poison cru with small 6" long bonito, slices of a white fish, lime juice, vinegar and something called "Gout" which is apparently a Chinese condiment that looks like tiny granular strands of salt but isn't salty tasting. I provided some fresh tomatoes, onions and cucumbers which we diced up and added in to the mix.
What a feast! All the dishes, with the exception of the poison cru perhaps, were very filling and we three skinny white folk certainly weren’t able to keep up with our Polynesian friends when it came to helpings, but we all kept up very well with the conversation and laughter.
After a few hours of this we "retired" to the cockpit and salon on Kestrel. The girls had a fun time trying on all of Isolde's various sun hats. Some went below to learn more about charting and GPS and Tina, Simon, the girls and Simon and I sat up in the cockpit under the shade of the tarp as Manu serenaded us with his hand made ukulele. Tina's laugh is infectious and what I'll long remember every time I think of my time in this little bit of paradise called Hao. She often joined in to help Manu with some of the singing and accompanied him on the spoons as they went through song after song telling of the history of the islands and this wonderful world of theirs.
Before we knew it, the afternoon was gone and so we all helped to clean up, load everything back into the pickup and all but Tony headed back home. Tony stayed aboard Kestrel and Gabor helped quench some of his thirst for learning more about using GPS coordinates to chart your way anywhere you want to go by boat. Isolde and I worked on getting her laptop back working again after some problems with her touchpad and getting iTunes which we had just installed, to work properly and synchronize with her iPod. Then the four of us ended up gathered around the salon table for coffee, tea and cookies and more conversation about our mutual interests and different backgrounds. People, more than anything else, are the true magic and gift of this new lifestyle.
Up for another sunrise this morning (Sunday) there was not a breath of wind and the water mirrored the sun as it rose on yet another great day. I took advantage of the weather and the fact that this is Sunday after all, to get out my lounge chair which I keep strapped to the aft railing and has not been off for several months. A liberal injection of magic juice (aka WD40) on all the many joints, hinges and slides soon had this recliner working again and I set it up on the back deck, put together a playlist of a nice variety of soothing piano artists from Glen Gould to Keith Jarrett and Oscar Peterson, clicked shuffle, dialed up the volume and reclined with my breakfast, my coffee and my Kindle for a fabulous few hours of reading and relaxing as I welcomed the start of another wonderful day. Wallowed in those moments until the boat chore list was calling my name too loudly to ignore and spent the rest of the day finally attacking the growing collection of rust spots and bubbles on the boat. I should have probably put on Neil Young's "Rust Never Sleeps" in a loop, but I went with a shuffle mix of slightly more upbeat but still soothing rhythms, Charles Mingus, Stanley Turrentine, Sado Watenabe and many others and while it was dusty with the grinder and Dremel tool running for the next few hours, I was able to get a good start at some of the rust areas that I've let get away from me.
It has actually become quite embarrassing every time I approach poor old Learnativity and see her streaked with the stains of dark orange oozing out of the many wounds she's acquired in the last two years of very steady and heavy use. Seems that every time I go to patch up one of these paint scrapes some other urgent matter trumps it and the rust has clearly been winning the battle as a result. Nothing structural, pretty much cosmetic more than anything else, but several spots are getting quite seriously corroded and she just doesn't look ship shape which is disappointing and a bit embarrassing for me as her captain and caretaker so today was the day to start to turn that around. One of the benefits of staying put for a while here in Hao will be that I can tackle a few more spots each day and get on top of this "feature" of steel boats that truly does never sleep. Given that she has not been painted topsides for over ten years she is actually in great shape, but I'm planning to get to all these spots and then do a complete paint job this hurricane season in New Zealand.
Gabor and Isolde stopped by this afternoon and we caught up with each other's progress. They think they are now going to head out on Wednesday when there will hopefully be a bit more wind to help propel them North to the Marquesas. I'm hoping our paths will cross again in the Society Islands after I return in August or perhaps some common points we are headed to west of there.
Now it is time to rustle up some diner, check out a bit of recorded video and then off to bed at the end of a wonderful weekend. Hope yours was at least as good and I'll be back to you with more updates later in the week.
Wayne & Ruby the Wonderdog