Saturday, July 12, 2014


After a month in Tahanea we decided it was time to move on. Predictably, we met a group of fun sailors - three kid boats! - just before we left. But days of northerly winds were forecast to arrive, so we had to either leave on the morrow or wait another week.

Our last night in Tahanea was the time for Elias and I to make our long-discussed foray onto the reef in search of lobsters. The lobsters were absent, but we did encounter two coconut crabs on the foreshore. I don't know how this is exactly, but they are the first coconut crabs I've ever seen in our years of knocking around the South Pacific. Overhunted, slow-growing, long-lived, slowly-reproducing marvels that they are, we marveled at them - one apparently a gravid female - and let them be.

And then, before we knew it, we were sailing out of the pass. First everyone commented on how gentle and perfect the conditions were. Then Eric went down - sprawled in the cockpit - and Alisa followed - brought low by the act of cooking dinner while already feeling poorly. There's a simple and pernicious family dynamic that comes to bear at times like this. The kids feel poorly, so act up. The adults feel poorly, and cannot simply zone out until they feel themselves. They must parent. Alisa, in this case and many others, had read aloud to the boys in the cockpit more than was good for her from the perspective of seasickness.

The winds were northeasterly, and thus on our beam. The coming northerlies are just the wind pattern we'd look for to get farther south in the Tuamotus, but we're not ready to head that way yet. "Heading north to Fakarava with a northeasterly," I said to Alisa, commiserating over her first-day-at-sea headache. "The Galactic way, I guess."

Morning saw us at the village of Rotoava on Fakarava. This is the Big Smoke of the Tuamotus - one of the centers of tourism in the archipelago, a spot heavily visited by yachts, and one of the biggest villages.'s totally mellow. All the visiting haolies appear to be elsewhere, in their dive resorts or guest houses. My first impression of the village was that we were suddenly, completely in Polynesia. The young women with flowers behind their ears and wearing those fitted bodice/tank top combos that you see everywhere in French Poly, the men tattooed and either muscular or immense, and everyone with a winning smile for us.

A month in uninhabited Tahanea is a month of the best that Polynesia has to offer. But it's our first walk through a seaside village, under the breadfruit trees, that makes me feel like we're really in Polynesia.

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