Saturday, August 9, 2014

Contingent and Bohemian

If you're paying any attention you'll know that one of my very favorite things about French Polynesia is how the internet access completely sucks.

Here in the village of Pouheva, on Makemo Atoll, the internet surpassed all our expectations for glacial service at a caviar price.  Here it just didn't work, period.

Which, since I didn't have any pressing work commitments that I was trying to meet, was completely fine with me.  I could live my life instead of staring at a screen.

Now, after a couple days, the internet is inexplicably working.  I met a couple of non-pressing work deadlines.  And then, as is my wont, I took a look at the Times online.

And, oh vey, is the world doing an awful job of looking after itself while we're on this endless voyage of ours.

At the risk of being facile, I cannot help but ask why we, and our boys, are living such a charmed life.  Why are we so endlessly fortunate?  Those four (?) young boys who were killed while playing on the beach in Gaza a few weeks ago serve as a counter-example to our experience that will stay with me for a very long time.
One of the natural history marvels of the South Pacific are nesting fairy terns.  They famously don't actually build a nest, but just lay an egg on a bare tree branch and let the newly-hatched chick balance as best it can.  We've seen lots of fairy terns, but never a nest - until we spied this one in front of the Rotoava Mairie - the town hall.  Chick and adult were active when we spied them at dusk, but when we came back for pictures the next day it was siesta time.  That fluffball on the right is the snoozing chick
Tuhoe, the mayor of the commune that includes Fakarava.  As an orphaned teenager, he was adopted by an Alaskan couple visiting on their yacht, and spent the next five years living in Anchorage.  I asked him to pose with the fish he was giving us from his freezer
So, there is no way to segue out of that sort of intro, except to say that we are (touch wood yet again) on the most amazing roll.  It feels like the first seven years of all this nautical carrying-on were just the warm up.  We are now securely living an existence more contingent and bohemian than that led by anyone else we know - with the exception of a dozen or so of our sailing friends.  Well aware of how swiftly the unyielding twists of lifetime narrative can put an end to this sort of idyll, I am treasuring every day.

Like…the day that saw us done with our various business at the big smoke of Rotoava, and sailing off to the south pass of Fakarava:

Here and below - the blokes, more or less keeping watch for coral bommies.

God, do I love sailing in an atoll lagoon.  As long as the light is good.

And me, at the end of our second three-hour day of sailing inside the lagoon.  Moving the boat takes it out of you.

 And this one, for our friends on Enki, who are sailing the populous waters of the Med.  Check out the egregious overcrowding in the south Fakarava anchorage - ten boats in one frame!

The good old days, they're all gone.

The main attraction that brings all these boats is the famous south pass, with its various fauna Chondricthian.  We of course wanted to see for ourselves.  This, and below, is what happens when Alisa tells four-year-old Eric to hold on in the dinghy on the way to the pass.

He flies instead.

And some of the goods: a Napolean wrasse, of which there were several to be seen every time we visited the pass.  Something this big has to be poisonous (ciguatera) to be common.
 Boy and goatfish.
Gray reef shark.

"They're potentially agressive!" Elias loves to point out.

Not that you'd know it from watching him swim around them.  The kid is very very relaxed in the water.

 How Eric "snorkels".  We're holding onto the painter of the dinghy and letting it float in the pass on the ebb tide along with us.  You get a great ride that way.
Toes and sharks - every parent's dream.
I've done all that one kid can do in one day.

Alisa taking a break from the water for a French lesson.  What else do you do if there's a retired French teacher in the anchorage?

Since these pictures were taken, we used the most perfect hiatus in the tradewinds to make tracks 75 miles upwind, to Makemo and its satisfyingly awful internet (and delightful new wharf).  More on all that soon.

Watching the green flash

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