Thursday, July 24, 2014


I ask myself: Is this just a picture dump from our time in Tahanea?  Is that all this post is?

No! I answer.  Tahanea meant something, dammit.  It was a rich part of our lives.  It was a waking dream.  The boys played, I wrote every day, we all swam and snorkeled and enjoyed fires on the beach.  Elias was even on school holiday half the time we were there.  We stayed away from other boats even though we knew they were likely carrying wonderful, interesting, companionable people.  We didn't want any other company.  Our family life, and the memory of the sail that had gotten us there, and the gem of the atoll that we found ourselves in.  That was all we needed from life, just then.  

It was magic.  And there can never be too many photos!

So, forthwith:

Doesn't she look jaunty?  Love of my life, mother to my children, confirmed chainsaw juggler.

It's morning when this pic is being taken.  She's about to...

…load our lovely children into the good skiff Smooches 
…drive away!

They'll find some delightful motu beach or another to pursue a morning of light entertainments.  I, meanwhile, will have two, maybe even three, golden hours of solitude on the boat.

Will I work on boat maintenance?

I will not.

Will I work on outstanding tasks demanded by the ceaseless advance of marine science?

I will not.

All that stuff can wait until the arvo, when I'm overcome by tropical lethargy.

No, I'll write while they're gone.

Where there's life, there's a second book.

After lunch, everyone will have a refreshing swim around the boat. 

After lunch Elias might do the dishes in a bucket of salt water.  But other than that, neither kid has much in the way of demands on their time.

Coconuts chilled in the fridge - that's living.

I love the way that the boys make their own toys.  There's nothing perfect about this life afloat, you know.  But there is a lot of good for the little fellows that you couldn't replicate elsewhere.
Upstairs reading, downstairs painting.  The boys spent a lot of time on the boat in Tahanea, but there's lots for them to do there.

Of course, the real delight of Tahanea comes when you're off the boat - either in the water:



Or on the beach:

Or on the reef:

Allright, maybe this is a bit of a photo dump.  I'm not advancing the plot very much with words.

The important thing about Tahanea, to us, is that we decided six years ago that it was all we wanted out of any destination that we might sail to.  There might well be better places in the world, we realized.  But we didn't particularly care to hear about those places - Tahanea was fine for us.

Then, when we left Tahanea the first time, we figured we'd never be back.  And, well, you know how that worked out.

The thing is that if you come to sailing in the tropical South Pacific from a background of doing fairly adventurous things to amuse yourself, you can be in for a letdown.  This old world of ours, she's getting pretty full.  And there are a lot of other people who had the same idea as you about sailing to palm-fringed anchorages.  And you know all your really fun friends who couldn't organize their lives from month to month?  They never made it away from the dock.

So, places that sound really exotic (think "Tonga" or "Suwarrow") can start to feel like the marine version of RV parks for engineers who took early retirement.  Not complaining, of course - we love this part of the world.  But we're also heading to Chile, if you follow me.

[And not taking anything away from our wonderful friends who happen to be engineers who took early retirement.  But did you all have to come?]

So Tahanea is a place where you can half-shut your eyes and convince yourself that it's still the good old days when you really could go lose yourself in the South Pacific.

The fourth of July.  Alisa produced sparklers for the occasion.

And the pièce de résistance - this great, ain't-no-one-else-gonna-be-there anchorage on the south side of the atoll.  The spur of reef in front of us gives protection from the waves, and the long sand spit to starboard beckons to the motus.

The view to starboard - another sand spit, only exposed at low tide, and then the reef beyond.
There are no rats on this motu, so there are ground-nesting brown boobies.

Anxious brown booby parent.  Not to worry!  I'm a long-ago seabird biologist and we were careful to minimize our disturbance.

The anchorage looked almost mythical from shore.  At night we could see no other anchor lights.

And well, that's the report from Tahanea.

You could call our time there indulgent ("hedonistic" is too strong a word when four- and seven-year-olds are involved). 

But, really, you have to raise the kids somewhere.  Why not places like this?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

His Life Aquatic

I've been meaning to write this post for a while.  This is an assignment that Elias did last school term, while we were in New Zealand.  It's just a timeline of his life as he remembers it at this point, but I was struck by what an effective summary it was for the way we've been living as a family for the last seven years.

If you like the blog enough to be reading regularly, you might forgive me this indulgent post.  Without meaning to, my kid showed me the big picture quite effectively.

I was born on August 5, 2006, in Kodiak, Alaska.  In this photo I'm with my great grandfather, Elmer.

I left Kodiak on Pelagic to sail to Australia with my parents.

We sailed across the Pacific Ocean and arrived in Aus. in Oct.  I turned two in Tonga.
We sailed along the east coast of Australia.  I turned 3 in Mooloolaba.
I became a big brother on April 29 when Eric was born in Hobart.
We sailed from California to Hobart on our new sailboat Galactic.
This year we lived in Hobart and I went to school at Albuera Street.
We sailed to NZ, Tonga and Fiji on the trip.  On that trip I caught a yellow-spotted trevally.
This year we are in NZ.  I got a recurve bow and arrows.

So far so good.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three Times Lucky

It's time to catch up on some more pics from our text-only days of posting via the HF radio.  We advance the plot now to Tahanea Atoll, our landfall out of En Zed.

Tasmanian and Kiwi friends - you may want to bookmark this post and come back to it in December.

North Americans and Europeans - it's summer for you, so you should be ok.

One of our first forays ashore.  Are we dreaming?  Are we still Alaskans?

We reached Tahanea fairly done in by our 23 days at sea.

"Hard won," Alisa kept muttering to herself.    "It was hard won."
We must be dreaming

We went directly to a favorite anchorage from previous visits and got down to just soaking it all in.
We can fly!  That's it - we're dreaming
The kid, and his hair, both swum out
Stone cold recuperating
Wildlife photography by Elias
Leather machete sheath by Alisa 
Elias learning to climb coconut trees

Great things come from small beginnings
We're still flying

Drying the series drogue before we pack it away

After a week or so we turned our attention to getting the boat cleaned up after the passage.

If there's something important about your boat that you can't fix yourself, that's you kissing all this goodbye and getting sucked in by Pape'ete.  So you gotta spend time fixing stuff.

Sewing the trysail
That's me fixing the Harken cruising roller furling.  We have two units - one for the jib, one for the staysail.  I've had to fix one or the other of them four times now.  Anything that we have to fix three times or more is officially overpriced junk.  The boys love it when we drop the sail on deck, though.

I went up the stick to rescue the distressed masthead wind indicator
I got this view for my trouble - lagoon, reef/motu, open Pacific
Making a second rain catcher.  Drinking water just falls from the sky, free to all.  How good is that?

Tahanea is not a place that you go for narrative.  It's a place, in our experience, that you just go to be.  And when you're ready for something else, you leave.

I'll end it for now with this picture of the boys completely rapt over the 7th anniversary cake that Alisa made.

More soon.