Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Growing Up

The 20-mile sail from from Namena to Makongai was a beat. The wind was so much in our faces that we couldn't sail directly where we wanted to go, but had to tack back and forth three times to lay a course for the pass through the Makongai Reef.

The wind was fresh - somewhere between 20 and 25 knots - and Galactic did well, easily making 7+ knots with a triple-reefed main and 110% jib.

Just before the pass we hooked a small tuna. With the angle of heel and the steep chop and the concentration needed to find the pass without markers or trustworthy chart, there was no time to reel in the tuna, so we let him drag. The boys, and particularly Elias, were levitating with excitment.

Then we tacked again to get to the windward side of the pass, Elias leaned out from the shelter of the dodger to see if the tuna was still on the line, and he very nearly caught a mighty crack to the side of his head from the flogging jib sheet. Those lines are 5/8" thick and thrash back and forth so hard when we tack in strong wind that you can barely see them. Elias was saved from the chance of a real injury by the stainless steel tubing of the bimini frame, which caught the blow. We are so used to Elias being able to look after himself when we're under way that we forgot that a seven year old is at least as prone to a moment of forgetfulness as anyone else. It was a valuable reminder.

After we were through the pass Alisa put Elias in his deck harness and helped him to reel in the tuna. This is something he's been asking us for at least since we left New Zealand at the start of the season - the chance to reel in a pelagic fish. Normally these fish are so big, and the motion of the boat out at sea where we catch them so lively, that there is no chance for Elias to be involved. But this was the perfect combination of a small fish that was by this point dead, and the protected waters of the lagoon.

Elias was so so pleased with himself when he was holding "his" tuna on deck.

His fascination with fishing is at this point mostly a source of frustration for Alisa and myself. He asks us endless questions about fishing. He tells us endless tall tales about fishing. He is forever playing with his lures and rod, heedless of the hazards of lead and sharp hooks and tangle-prone monofilament, and ignoring our endless demands that these items are serious tools and not toys. But when it comes to actually catching a fish, he is still too short of patience and technique to do much good. But I can see how his fascination will grow into real skill, and I expect that in a few years he'll be keeping us in a steady supply of fresh fish.

After we were anchored and the fish was cleaned and we were eating lunch Elias asked me to yank out his second front tooth, which had become loose enough to be an annoyance. This one was more firmly attached than the first, which I also yanked out, and it took two tugs with my fingers to get it out, and a little blood followed.

Poor fellow, it was so touching to see his dismay at the sight of blood on his fingers when he held the tooth, and his greater dismay at the feel of blood in his mouth. A visit from the tooth fairy, who left two Fijian dollars, was enough to make it all better.

We went ashore at the anchorage after lunch to get permission to be here - to make sevusevu, the customary offering of yaqona to request permission to be within the precincts of the village. This is an odd case for sevusevu, as the settlement here is not a traditional village, but a government outpost dedicated to the rearing of green turtles and giant clams, at the site of an old leper colony. But the people living here trace their occupation back three generations, and it certainly feels enough of a village setting to be requesting permission to be part of the scene.

There were a bunch of tykes about, of course, and as we were getting a tour of the place Eric found it hilarious to grab a grass switch, yell out "let's get them!" and go charging after the local kids, swinging the grass at the face of any kid he could catch.

Inevitably, by the end of the tour this game had devolved into the local kids chasing after him, giving him pinches and grabbing at his Crocks when he ran out of them. He didn't get the best of the deal, not least because he was having a go a whole pack of kids who were about his size, but a year or two or older than him, and therefore that much more developed and agile and tough. A valuable lesson for our three year old, though of course parents always wonder exactly what lesson might have been learned!


  1. Hello Mike Alisa and family - love your blog - discovered it while looking up some bits on Leiv Poncet - we're running a piece about his trip (a little late I know) in our newspaper (Penguin News, Falkland Islands). Good luck sailing - my Deputy Editor Sharon did a trip to Antarctic with Leiv's brother Dion and is going to check out your book. Best wishes from the Falkland Islands. Lisa Watson

    1. Hey Lisa - glad you found our blog. We've got the Falklands written on our hope-we-get-there list. Alisa has the feeling that it's the kind of place we'd end up spending a year in...