Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Will Do Just Fine

You couldn't get these days down in a blog - you wouldn't want to. Each one endless then suddenly done. Each one full of all the little moments of family life immersed in the tradewind tropics, that one zone where the planet seems to achieve its potential.

We caught a fish today, between spells of sailing between reefs with tradewind breakers stacked up over them and then looking dubiously at the little anchorages on the southeastern islets where we might spend an uncomfortable night while the trades continue to boom. The boys didn't notice when I was having trouble falling off to slot between two reefs with the swell on our beam and 20 feet of water under our keel. They didn't notice when I nearly choked on my chewing gum while I was in the midst of the anaerobic winch grinding session that is singlehanding Galactic in a breeze. But oh, my, they noticed the fish. Once it was aboard Elias even identified it unassisted from our guide book to the tropical reef fish of the Indo-Pacific: a double-lined mackerel. Which was a good effort on his part, since, as he noted, the picture in the book isn't all that great.

Then there were the humpbacks we saw after we had given up on the remote and rugged southeastern anchorages and resigned ourselves to heading back to the crowded anchorages near Neiafu. A few blows (from the whales), a couple sightings of whale backs, a massive tail lob, then me saying (inappropriately enough, since the whole family was in the cockpit), "Oh, fuck. Tacking." While I was busy staring at whales, the depthsounder had gone from 200 feet under the keel to 16 - the light for seeing coral had gone completely to custard, and I was sailing half-blind, just me and my chart from a British survey in 1898.

The funny thing about this long day of working hard to get nowhere near where we were hoping to end up is that it began in the delightful anchorage of Kenutu - "one of the outstanding anchorages of the South Pacific" according to Warwick Clay, who wrote the invaluable "South Pacific Anchorages" and is therefore in a position to give an informed opinion on the matter. Kenutu had the turqoise water, it had the 24-7 sound and spectacle of breakers dashing themselves into ephemeral mountains of spray against the windward cliffs, it had the thickets of staghorn coral, obviously and vigorously alive in a world of degraded coral reef ecosystems. And it even had a little spit of shoal water between us and the four boats that arrived via a different access route through the reefs. So we had a smidgin of privacy, which we all like very much.

I was the super-tiniest bit sour on the idea of heading back to the heaving flesh pots of Vaka'eitu after we failed to double down on the Kenutu experience with a night and day and night at Mananita. But - lo! There were 13 yachts when we last spent a night here, and not a single one when we pulled in this afternoon. So we've got the joint to ourselves, and there are rumors of umu cooking and roast pig flesh to be had on Lape in a few days.

During our time on the eastern side of Vava'u Alisa kept saying to Elias, "I think this life agrees with you." What she was noticing was that when we're in town he's often a little dissatisfied with this or that, especially if there aren't other kids around. But when we're out on our own somewhere, he settles down into himself, and is content.

Meanwhile, Alisa and I are well settled in, too. We're happy swimming with the kids off the jupe every day and eating every meal under the flapping white deck awning. Tonga will do just fine for us.

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