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!
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
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:
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.
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.
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?