Jul 14 2010

Life in 15 minute intervals

Tag: humorous,routeJonathon Haradon @ 7:09 pm

(concerning events: July 8th)

When on a passage, the people on board take turns being ‘on watch’.  While on watch, that person is called the helmsman.  They are in charge of sailing the boat, making sail changes if necessary, ensuring the proper course of the boat.  The helmsman can ask other people for help in doing a task.  Other people can take it upon themselves to tinker with sails, look at and adjust the course, etc. etc. if they are so inclined.  The captain (Matt), if he feels like it since he’s the captain gets to do whatever he damn well pleases and tell the helmsman to piss off if wants.  We, thankfully, have a benevolent captain (so far) who makes his requests much more politely.   In the end, particularly through the night, it is the helmsman’s job to make sure the boat doesn’t hit anything.

My first overnight watch was not particularly exemplary.  I was determined to improve upon this in my next one.  Our passage from Apataki to Rangiroa would provide me with the first opportunity.  I volunteered to take the midnight to 6 am shift .

Every 15 minutes the person on watch is supposed to at a minimum scan the horizon looking for anything we might run into.  15 minutes is the chosen interval aboard Syzygy as we believe it balances differing factors such as: how far you can see at night, how generally busy with other vessel traffic the area is, human comfort.  We have a wristwatch aboard Syzygy that has an alarm set to ring every 15 minutes.  I would wear it around the band of my headlamp so that it was always extremely close to my ear.  Just in case I was sleeping or simply had my eyes deeply closed.  I would even wear the watch during the day so that if I got busy doing something, when the alarm rang I would be reminded to, at a minimum, look around for other boats, land, check our course, etc.

Through the night, I noticed my life quickly become wholly defined by that alarm.  I would wait for the alarm before I would do almost anything, so that I would be less likely to be in the middle of something when the alarm rang.  I would plan to do different jobs by the alarm.  “After two alarms I will _____________.”

Here is my night watch, my life, as defined by those 15 minute intervals.

11:45 pm – 1200 am
Look for coffee maker.   Become frustrated at not being able to find it.  Attempt to light stove for coffee.  Continue frustrations at stove for not staying lit at a low flame, optimal for coffee making.  Not processing what Matt is saying to me about his and Karen’s watch because I feel like a zombie and nauseous.  I drink a large glass of juice because I know I need calories but can’t think of anything easy enough to make.  Stomach feels queasy from the rocking motion of the boat as it pitches and rolls 10 degrees to each side.

12:00 am – 12:15 am
Coffee finishes boiling.  up on deck listening to Matt.  During the first part of my watch I need to take down the whisker pole, and bring in the fishing lines.  At some point, we will need to heave to as we will have arrived at the entrance to the atoll but don’t want to go through the pass in the dark.  Stomach feels queasy; I think the rolling of the boat has increased to 15 degrees to each side, though I’m probably imagining it.   Eat granola bar for more calories and because a more full stomach usually helps me with seasickness.  Alarm sounds.

12:15 am – 12: 30 am
Look around the horizon.  Check course on computer.  Pour coffee into cup. stomach feels awful, it’s not looking good.  Boat is definitely, in my imagination, pitching 20 degrees to each side.  Alarm sounds.

12:30 am – 12:45 am
Look around the horizon.  Back down below to add milk and sugar to coffee.   I imagine 30 degree rolling pitches to each side, a roller coaster fun house of nasea.  Realize my stomach is done.  Stomach is rising. Need to get outside immediately.  Get halfway out the companionway, remember that I’m about to drape myself 1/2 off the boat and I’d better clip in. stomach in throat.   Fumble with the tether trying to get clipped in.  It takes ages. Stomach in mouth.  Finally can step on deck knowing I’m tethered.  Stomach in mouth, mouth forcibly closed to prevent a god awful mess in the cockpit.  Fall into the jack lines, stomach exiting.  Sit down on the boat, stick my head between the jack lines into a nice comfortable position and continue to throw up into a dark sea.  I have to time my events with the rolling of the boat so as not to coat the sides of the hull.  I’m not very good at this.  Alarm sounds.

12:45 am
I give the alarm the bird, heave one more time and then drag myself up to look around.  Nothing like taking a break from throwing up to look around for boat traffic.  Fuck me.  I then go back to the rail to hang out and watch water flow by the boat.  It’s quite a sight.  Mysteriously dark, the swell rising and falling.  I listen to all the unique sounds that happen.  Waves hitting up against the hull.  The rush of water as we accelerate down the face of the wave.  The ripples it makes as our boat cuts through at 6 knots.  Light glistens off the surface particularly from the moon.  Parts are eerily smooth, like an oil slick.  Others are little whirlpools, particularly as it eddies off the back of our boat.   Sea sickness seems to have gone away and I actually feel much better.  Alarm sounds.

1:00 am
Look around.  Get some water swish it around my mouth.  Back to the rail to watch some more water.  Able to sit up comfortably and look up at the stars.  The stars are a treat.  There are thousands, millions of them.  On a cloudless, moonless night, the faintest stars are visible barely there to the straining eye.  The brightest gleam dominantly.  A milky way band stretches prominently across the sky.  All new southern hemisphere stars to gaze at and wonder about.  I know none of the constellations like I do in the Northern hemispere.  A week later, safely at anchor and feeling much better, I’ll start making up names for constellations.  A particular group of three forming a triangle gets called Allison.   Tonight though, I just stare at them, looking at different ones as they glisten differently, sparkle with this color or that.  A shooting star darts by, long enough so that I only see it in my peripheral vision, have time to move my head and eyes to focus on it and it is still goes for another second.  Very cool.  Alarm sounds.

1:15 am
Look around. Check course on computer.  Get my coffee and bring it on deck.  Take my first sip.  It’s cold.  Begin contemplating the tasks I have to do.  Clean up the side of the boat,  some off the lifelines and a little off the side deck.  Alarm sounds.

1:30 am
Look around. Start bringing in the first fishing line.  I am able to do this sitting down.  This is good because I feel exhausted from my earlier bout of nasea.  Realize that our tackle box is still quite a mess, despite some effort and time Matt put into organizing it.  Once I finish pulling in the first line, I relax and wait.  I don’t want to start on the second line and have to stop if the alarm goes off.  I could look at the watch and see if I have enough time, but I prefer to just sit there and wait it out.  One minute. Two, three, four, five.  I probably could have pulled in the line by now.  Alarm sounds.

1:45 am
Look around.  Check course on computer.  Bring in the second line.  I endeavor to bring some semblance of order to tackle box while stowing the fishing lines.  Alarm sounds.

2:00 am
Look around.  Check course on computer.  Make a plan for the next two alarm cycles.  I plan to spend an extensive amount of time dealing with our course, checking our course on the computer, looking at how far we have to go, when we should heave-to, etc.  Tasks such as these can take up nearly an entire cycle as the computer program we use, Mac-Enc is woefully slow.  Embarrassingly slow for a program running on a Mac.  After the time-consuming check, I’ll spend the remainder of that cycle and the next cycle resting.  Then, I’ll begin taking down the whisker pole.  Alarm sounds.

2:15 am
I look around for longer then necessary, using the binoculars to stare off at the lights from shore, eyeing each intensely to make sure it is not, in fact, a boat that might head for us.  After doing the multiple tasks on a mind-numbingly slow Mac-Enc, I come back on deck and look around again.  There is not much time left in this cycle, but I lie down and watch the stars.  I close my eyes.  Consider eating and become nauseous at the thought.  I try to slow my breathing, trying to bring as much relaxation and rest as possible to a still awake but dehydrated and tired body.  Alarm sounds.

2:30 am
Look around extremely quickly, as it was just three minutes or so that I last looked.  Back to lying down.  I close my eyes and let my thoughts drift.  Idly thinking of people back home, what they might be doing, what changes are happening in their lives.  Has Allison found a job yet?  Has she gotten my letter?  Is not communicating for three weeks hard?  Did Dave’s school get approved? Has Maddi my niece gotten even more adorably cute?  I try and drift as close to sleep as possible.  Alarm sounds.

2:45 am
Still lying down in the cockpit with my eyes closed, giving myself 30 more seconds.  As I’m opening up my eyes, I almost sense it before I even see it. A bright light, 20 degrees up the horizon and behind us, a boat would have to be close, TOO CLOSE for a light that bright.  Close and large.  “How could I have not seen a boat like that before!?!?”  rushes through my head as I sit up with a quick start, brain fast into action as to what I’m going to have to do.  I then heave a sigh and collapse back down onto the cushions in the cockpit, done staring at the moon for now.  Thanks moon, thanks for that.  Look around.  I note an actual new light on the horizon.  Could be more shore lights, but I’m inclined to think it’s a boat.  Check course on computer.  Back up on deck, I begin going through the steps to take down the whisker pole.  On foredeck, unclip the pole.  Slowly bring twenty foot pole to rest on deck.  The boat has seen fit to make this task difficult by rolling 15 degrees to each side of vertical.  Standing is generally out of the question, and so I lean/sit on the dinghy which is tied upside down on our foredeck.  Pole down, a dozen more steps to go.  Alarm sounds.

3:00 am
Of course the alarm sounds right now.  I curse silently, then try and pin the pole down while I scan the horizon.  The new light has definitely moved closer.  Back to the whisker pole, I get the bridle off, loosen the topping lift so I can move the pole to it’s stowed position, Get the jib sheet off the pole, and begin moving the pole to the other side of the boat for stowage.  Alarm sounds.  Really? Already?

3:15 am
Look around. The light is now the shadow of a boat as it is slips by our port side.  I finish stowing the pole.  I then have to retrieve the whisker pole bridle and re-lead the jib sheet.  Alarm sounds.

3:30 am
Look around.  Check course on computer.  I wake Matt up so we can heave to.  He immediately notes the light, but I assure him it is moving away.  We then heave-to, which simply means that we tack the boat without allowing the jib to move to the other side.  This pins the jib sail up against the shrouds and stalls the boat.  The jib tries to take the boat down-wind, while the main and the rudder act to counter by trying to drive the boat up into the wind.  The idea is to completely stall.  Alarm sounds.

3:45 am
Look around.  A proper heave-to takes a bit of finesse.  Our boat is also not particularly inclined to completely stop in it’s heave-to.  We have slowed to a 1 knot however, from about 5 or 6.  Matt and I look at the sail, banter about how to get us to completely stop.  Matt starts to clean up lines and I say “Dude, go back to bed.”  “Oh yea,” he replies, “See you at 6.”  and disappears down the companionway.  Alarm sounds.

4:00 am
Look around.  Relax and aimlessly watch the stars and the water.  Alarm sounds.

4:15 am
Look around.  Check course on computer.  Relax and aimlessly watch the stars and the water.  Alarm sounds.

4:30 am
Look around.  Relax and aimlessly watch the stars and the water.  Alarm sounds.

4:45 am
Look around.  Think that describing life in 15 minute segments might be an interesting blog post.  Open up Matt’s computer to start writing. Alarm sounds.

5:00 am
Look around.  Check course on computer.  Continue writing.  Then I think to myself, “Really?”  and head back up on deck and calmly this time, tether in, sit down on the coamings of the cockpit, move my head between the life lines and throw-up.  Alarm sounds.

5:15 am
Look around.  Gurgle some water and feel exceedingly good except for my pride.  What kind of a sailor am I that I can’t even look at a computer screen for a little while to type?  So what the boat is rolling.  How am I going to manage on a 5 day passage or 10?  At least I’m not doubled over and incapacitated.  Oddly, I’m actually in excellent spirits.  I just would like to be able to do something on watch other than relax and aimlessly watch the stars and the water.  Alarm sounds.

5:30 am
Look around.  Relax and aimlessly watch the stars and the water.  Alarm sounds.

5:45 am
Look around.  Check course on computer. Relax and aimlessly watch the stars and the water.  Alarm sounds.

6:00 am
Look around.  Relax and aimlessly watch the stars and the water.  Alarm sounds.

Matt gets up.  While my watch is technically over, there is stuff to do like getting out of the heave-to and then motor sailing back to the pass which we have drifted to the west of and then a pass to enter.  All things good for me to practice So I stay up and go through all of these.  The pass into Rangiroa is exciting, with tall standing waves from a mix of currents and wind.  The waves seem to tower over us as they roll in behind and then sweep under us.  We get to anchorage, and Matt lets me suss out our options for anchoring and then pilot us into place.  I’m not quite up to the task yet though, and so in the last bit Matt modestly gives out some directions on what to be doing.  Once anchored, Matt go about the various little tasks that all have to been done after anchoring.  We do these in silence.  I am reminded of when after a long rock-climb, or a hike out from a canyon, when you have to do those last miserable details.  We both know what needs to be done, and we go about it silently. After 45 minutes of slowly moving through these tasks, it is about 9 am.  I crawl into bed and pass out.

Jul 12 2010

Food and Fish

Tag: failures,humorous,route,victoriesJonathon Haradon @ 10:04 pm

(concerning events: July 3rd -July 6th)

People have lived in French Polynesia for around 2000 years and ever since have been eating fish.  Lots and lots of fresh fish.  We have not been eating lots and lots of fresh fish.  We have been eating little to no fresh fish.  This vexes me to no end.  We had fresh fish once in the two weeks I have been here.  Native Tuomotians Ken and Martin caught it for us.

Karen is a fantastic cook.  She probably cooks the most dinners, though I cook my fair share.  Matt and Karen seem to have tired of their repertoire of recipes.  I certainly haven’t though and everything that Karen makes I think is delicious.  Everything that Matt makes I think is delicious.  Everything that I make…. well Matt and Karen eat it, so it must be edible.

But we all acknowledge that our meals are with drawbacks.  Nearly every meal is ‘x’ number of cans + [either] pasta or rice + alcoholic beverage of choice = meal.  Sometimes this is canned spaghetti sauce plus canned chicken plus pasta equals a meal.  Sometimes this is canned roast beef + canned corn + canned mushrooms + canned yams + canned gravy + boxed potatoes = meal.  I think they are delicious every time.  But something fresh would be wonderful.

When Karen makes various fresh bread, it’s a little slice of heaven.  Sometimes sourdough english muffin.  Sometimes tortillas.  Or sourdough french bread.  Or puffy donut holes with cinnamon and sugar, oh sinfully delicious.  So bread, bread we can do fresh.  Otherwise, cans.

I feel like we should be eating fish.  For one, it’s free.  For two, it’s not cans.

Matt and Karen reported no luck fishing while sailing across the Pacific and while cruising the Marquesas and the Tuomotus.  This poor showing on the part of the fish to readily enjoy our lures, combined with Matt’s reticence at the idea of cutting up live things with guts in them has led to a decline in fishing attempts onboard s/v Syzygy.  Who can blame them?  They never caught anything.  With my arrival, I bring fresh hopes and renewed vigor to the idea of fishing.  And an indefatigable arrogance that it has to be possible to catch something.  Anything.

And I have failed.  Failed as all other attempts at trailing lines has failed on s/v Syzygy.  Please other cruisers who are able to catch fish regularly,  tell us your exact set-up of trolling lines and how you catch fish, down to the minutest detail.  Because we are incompetent.  We have read a book and we have not learned.  Nearly all things done on this boat, all the sailing knowledge, all the boat projects completed are because we read a book and learned about it.  We read a book about fishing, but we cannot seem to learn how to fish.  Please tell us everything about your set-up.  Length of line out, type of knots, length of mono-filament.  Type of lure.  Color of lure.  Number of lures.  Depth of lure.  Time of day.  Depth to ocean floor.  Distance to land.  Boat speed.  Wind speed. Current. Hook size.  Hook placement within lure.  Allowable rust level on hook.  Bait used or not.  Leader weight used or not.  Chum used or not. Teasers used or not.  Pagan gods to whom you might give sacrifice in order to make the ocean share its bounty.  Please include video of ceremony, text of chants and incantations, list of all incense types used and step by step instructions for actual sacrifice.

I have, actually, caught some fish.  But I was only able to do that at anchor.  When we were in Apataki, and in having beer and an excellent lunch at the cargneage(boat haul-out center)/pension/restaurant/happy hour/pearl farm establishment, fishing was brought up with the family who owns all this enterprise, Alfred and his wife.  They said they had a surefire way for us to catch fish involving hermit crabs as bait and that next time we come to shore, they would show us.  The next day, we show up but Alfred is off fishing and his wife is gone.  Karen manages to relate to the very nice ancient lady that met us at the dock (Alfred’s mom??) our intentions.  So before we know it, this 80-ish year old woman has grabbed a hermit crab.  Matt and I are hustling around trying to watch every little step of what she does.  She then gets a hammer, one shot smashes the shell, grabs the hermit crab, one hand around all it’s legs and claws, the other around its guts and rips it in two pieces.  She threads it on the hook and done.  30 seconds have passed.  I am in awe.  In a couple of days, I will no longer be in awe of the process.  Instead, I will be a one-man professional hermit crab death squad.

We collect a dozen hermit crabs and head back to the boat.  At dusk, apparently good fishing time, I retrieve a hammer, a cutting board, and a hook.  I ask Karen to retrieve a video camera.  The nice ancient lady completed the steps in about 30 seconds.  It takes me 30 minutes.  So despite that it is now dark, I try to fish anyway.  Nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.  I take solace in the fact that it is pitch black out and vow to try again in the morning.

In the morning at 6 am I begin setting up to try again. Success!  Within a half an hour I’ve hooked two fish.  Karen comes on deck.  I ask her what to do now that I have a fish flopping around in a large green bin.  She says I have to kill it.  I don’t know how to do that I reply.  She fetches the book.  We read it.  We learn.  The fish dies.  Knife shot to the brain, one inch behind the eye.

After reading the book for each step in the process of gutting and cleaning we take the fish into shore to make sure that we can eat them.  Some fish you can’t eat because of a nasty little disease called ciguterra  I refer you to a blog post from our good friends Mike and Hyo aboard Io, Mike is a marine biologist and so can explain all the nastiness of ciguterra better than I.

Matt gets the job of cooking the fish and that night we finally dined on fresh fish.  The next night we again dined on fresh fish.  It was wonderful, albeit a bit bony.  Then we moved anchorages, losing our source for local knowledge of ciguterra (Different fish on different atolls have it) and we have not had fish again.  Back to cans.

So fellow cruisers, please help us become better fishermen and fisherwomen.  Please help us spare the cans.

Jul 12 2010

Toau North

Tag: routemattholmes @ 6:49 pm

karen wrote a good post

Jul 12 2010

Meeting Ken. Pronounced …. I still don’t know

Tag: routeJonathon Haradon @ 2:52 pm

(concerning events: June 20th)

After a couple of days in Fakarava, Matt and Karen wanted to beat a hasty leave to Toau, another atoll a short day sail away.  Another couple, Mike and Hyo aboard Io, were anchored there.  Mike and Hyo are awesome fun people from Canada.  They have done a fair bit of rock-climbing, are adventurous and generally see the world similarly.  Mike’s insistence that you cannot buy a new, quality, made-to-last toaster for any amount of money anywhere in the world notwithstanding.  He says the same thing about chain-saws, a subject upon which, given his Canadian background, he can more convincingly provide expert opinion.  They are also young, young 30’s, a rarity in the cruising world.  Matt and Karen, after having been predominantly on their own for the last two months exploring nearly or completely deserted locales, were, despite my arrival, still desperate for more interaction with more people.  So while I might have wanted to stick around Fakarava for a while, it was my very first place after all, I easily deferred and we were off to Toau, I content in the thought that more adventures would be waiting.  Mike apparently had a spear gun.  And a machete.  More adventures would definitely be waiting.

The first morning in Toau I was again up at 6 am.  Despite having played a game of Carcassone (a fun tile-based make cities and roads and farms and score points thing) until midnight or so with Matt, Karen, Mike and Hyo.  I swam to shore, and starting walking along the water’s edge, lagoon side.  It was not evident that anyone lived here, though we knew Mike had hung with a couple of locals, Martin and Wallace, that lived 3 miles south.  Martin and Wallis lived on different motu’s, the little islands that make up the atoll ring, and so rarely got together.  They communicated with each other every night via a smoke signal, to let one another know they were doing OK.  So didn’t think that I would be running into anyone, but about 20 minutes into my slow stroll along the lagoon, a voice calls out in Hello.  “Bonjour!”  I reply hesitantly, not wanting to insinuate that I spoke any other words in French, but also wanting not to be an ugly American and presume English capabilities.

Ken and I thus met.  I was the only person from any of the sailboats he had met and was eager to interact.  You pronounce his name like it appears, however the ‘n’ is very soft to the point where if you just say the ‘K’ and the ‘e’ like you were about to say ‘Ken’ but then left off the ‘n’, you would probably be most correct.  Retrospectively, I don’t think this was his given name, but rather the name he gave to foreigners.  Ken spoke some English and I was rapidly becoming excellent in Pantomime, so we hit it off well.  He asked if I wanted some breakfast, some coconut, and so found one of his specialized tools for copra farming he uses to cut down coconuts.  It was essentially a 10 foot long pole, bamboo I think, with a small curved scythe like blade on the end.  Reach up and hook it around a coconut, then cut and run.  So you don’t get hit by falling coconuts of course.  Out comes the machete.  Top priority in Tahiti is to buy me a machete.  With a few quick hacks the husk is off, and a small hole the interior nut is chipped.  I am now drinking coconut water straight from a coconut, while sitting on the beach, talking with a Tuomotian.  At 7 am in the morning.  This day is starting off well.

Ken and I continue talking.  I desperately wish in this moment that I could speak fluent French.  The interaction would have been so much deeper.  This feeling has happened few other times so far during my three weeks here, and we only have another three weeks or so in French speaking territory.  But in this moment, I definitely wish I could speak French.  We talk about what he does for a living, which is harvesting copra.  Copra is the meat of older coconuts which is then dried.  It is then sent to Tahiti to make coconut oil.  Or something like that.  Once I’ve finished the coconut water, he takes it from me and breaks it in half with the blunt of the machete.  A flick of the wrist, the machete slices through the air, and he has carved from the outer edge of the interior nut a spoon like utensil which he hands to me and motions that I should dig out the jelly like material inside of the coconut.  More delicious yummy goodness for breakfast.

Ken then asks if I fish, and I unfortunately have to reply that, no, I don’t fish, but I very much want to learn.  So he motions that we should go over to the ocean side of the atoll.  It’s a quick 5 minute walk away and along the way he picks up one piece of fishing gear.  An eight foot long perfectly straight wooden pole with three metal pieces of sharpened rebar on the end.  This is a traditional Polynesian spear.  We are going spear fishing.  Polynesian style.

Ken walks up to the edge of the water looking for fish.  On the ocean side of every atoll I have been on, there is a small reef between 20 and 60 feet away from shore where the waves break.  the reef is submerged during hide time and exposed during low tide.  It’s about midway right now, the tide rising, and here, (not everywhere as I will find out a week later when walking along a similar reef I am knocked over by a wave and sustain small cuts from the coral reef on my fingers, ankle, thumb, calf and a deeper, larger abrasion on my back) we can safely walk along the reef as well.  As Ken walks up to the water’s edge, he motions that he is looking for fish and sometimes points a few out.  We are looking mainly for parrot fish who with their bright blue-green skin are extremely easy to spot in the two foot deep shallows between the reef and shore.  Moments later he spots one close.  He creeps  slowly at first, then a quick burst of speed and the spear is then flying into the water.  Splashing the six feet over to the spear he pulls it up.  First throw: one fish.  He then hands the spear to me.

‘That didn’t look to hard,’ I think, knowing full well that a lifetime of practice went into that throw.  He helps me stalk some fish.  I try the slow stalking method, but he encourages me to get upon them faster and so I run up and then give the spear a toss.  Laughable.  LAUGHABLE!  the spear didn’t even make it to the water cleanly, deflecting through the air and hitting the water nearly broadside.  I laughed.  Ken laughed.  I went to try again.  I spotted more fish, and this time the spear at least entered the water cleanly.  I picked it up, but no fish came with it.  Half a dozen more tries, kept me hilariously occupied, Ken encouraging me on.  I could have gone for another two hours I was enjoying myself so, but I think that Ken was tiring of my ineptitude and was ready to head back.  I don’t blame him.

As we were walking back, we again talked about coconuts, him pointing out which ones were good for eating and what stages the coconuts were in.  As we arrived at the atoll shore, he said I should return at 10 am to do some more fishing with him and his cousin.  I asked (pantomime combined with embarrassingly short phrases) if the other people from Syzygy and Io can join.  I’m thinking Mike from Io and Matt would love to meet Ken.  Mike had met Ken’s cousin, Martin, who would also be fishing with us, but not Ken.

At ten Matt, Mike and I head back into shore in Mike’s dinghy.  Ours is not reliable.  O.K., it’s a janky piece of shit and we have tried our best to inadvertently lose it or ruin it.  (see Karen’s blog, and… just kidding.  Kind of.)

Ken and Martin take us down the shore a bit to a small little cove.  We wait on shore while they take what looks to be an incomprehensibly jumbled net 200 feet away to the other side of the cove.  To my amazement, they are able to  stretch the net out with little to no tangles; it was perfectly laid out to unfold nicely.  The net is a mesh of super thin mono filament or nylon, extremely hard for fish to see.  A fish hits it and will quickly become tangled.It also has floats along one edge and weights on another to form a wall of net.  It ends up being about 80 feet long and once it is stretched out, they motion for us to begin walking towards it.  Mike has said that he has seen this and that we should grab sticks and bang the water.  So Matt and I go looking for something to hit the water with.  We then proceed to wade through the water towards the net slapping the water with sticks in an apparent effort to scare the fish and corral them towards the net.  Three white guys walking through the water banging on the surface with tiny sticks.  It must have looked side-splittingly funny.  I felt ridiculous.  Matt later said the same.

Once we have arrived at the net, Martin and Ken start checking the net for fish and throwing ones that were caught onto the bank next to us.  Matt spots one in the net.  We’ve caught four fish!  One large parrot fish is the big prize.  Back to shore, we begin to scale them.  Ken and Martin tell us that all of the fish are ours; we can’t thank them enough.  More people in a seemingly unending string of wonderfully nice local people.  Willing to share their generosity, kindness, and skills with foreigners.  You just have to reach out a little and show you are open to it.

At the boat, Mike shows us how to clean and gut the fish, and says that since these are our first fish that we’ve done that to, we have to have a piece of sashimi from the parrot fish, right then and there.  It was excellent.  We then work up a poisson cru, a popular Polynesian dish where the fish is steeped in lime juice.  Like ceviche, this kind of ‘cold cooks’ the fish.  We then cut up some late development coconuts to get at some of the coconut meat.  You are supposed to grate the coconut meat, then put the shavings into a cheese cloth and squeeze.  Out comes a delicious milky substance.  Add that and some cucumber and onion to the fish.  Poisson cru.  We started with a cheese grater for the coconut.  Matt upgraded us to a power drill with a sanding bit.  That was fun.

That led to dinner, another game of Carcassone, and the day was done.  Thanks to Ken for showing me a great day!

Jul 10 2010

1st Day

Tag: routeJonathon Haradon @ 10:15 am

(concerning events: June 17th)

The alarm sounds at 6 am.  Despite being in a deep sleep, I quickly lash out an arm, flopping it around searching for how to turn it off.  Matt and Karen will not be up for another two or three hours and I don’t want to disturb them.  Last night, I told them I was getting up early to watch the sunrise.  They scoffed and said I would get over that soon.  (Three weeks later, I am still getting up at 6 am almost every day to watch the sunrise. I don’t even need the alarm anymore.)

Up on deck, I quietly watch the sunrise.  While not the most spectacular I’ve seen, that wasn’t the point.  I envision maximizing each day, enjoying all that I can and seeing every moment of beauty.  This is the fantasy, and for the first day, at least, I’m going to make it happen.

I then find the dry bag and swimming goggles.  I put socks, shoes, and a shirt in the bag and roll it up, hoping it works; Matt voiced skepticism the night before.  I don the goggles and gingerly ease myself into the water, not because it is cold but because Matt and Karen might stir from a loud splash.  They have adapted to wake at any unusual sound, in case it might indicate something is wrong.  They have not had to deal with the morning sounds of a third person on the boat in over four months, much less a cannonball off the deck into the water.

The shore is only 200 yards away and I reach it quickly.  The one road is a mere 10 feet away.  Walking towards town on the one road of this section of the atoll, I wave at some locals driving by.  I walk past the school, the one room hospital, an advertisement for a chiropractic session.  An aged basketball hoop appears;  I wish there was a game going that I could have joined.  I wonder how often the hoop gets used? Who installed it?

Turning left of the main road I walk for 400 yards and find the ocean.  As Matt had promised, there are no wide, long white sandy beaches; the lagoon side of the atoll also lacked this traditional association with tropical paradise. The atolls have only small pieces of coral forming the shores.  After a stint along the ocean, with some pausing to soak in the beauty and awe of the atoll and the beauty and awe of the circumstances of chance and fortitude that brought me here, I walk back to the main road.  My distance along the ocean has brought me to the opposite end of town and so I begin the short walk back.  I find the a tiny grocery store.  The next day, I’ll swim to shore, retrieve a baguette, and swim back, baguette in dry bag.  Today finds me with no money.

Back to the boat, Matt and Karen are stirring.  After breakfast, we take the dinghy to shore, head to the one tiny grocery store to buy a few things.  We then visit a storefront for a pearl farm operation.  Through Matt and  Karen’s French, I inquire about a specific pearl farm I had read.  At one specific place, Havaraki Pearls, you can dive for your own oyster, retrieve it, and then crack it open and keep whatever pearl you find.  Sometimes, it’s an ok pearl, sometimes as the owner of Havarki explained later, sometimes though rarely, someone will find a pearl worth a few hundred dollars.  I may or may not have paid for the fun of getting my own oyster and leaving to chance what type of pearl I might find in it.

The exact second we walked up to Havarki Pearls they were beginning an explanation of pearl farming, complete with cracking open some shells and showing us how you seed an oyster, how to transplant pearls from one oyster to another, how to remove the pearl, and what part of the oyster is still edible.  We watched as the proprietor used tools one might find in a dentist office: tiny little mirrors, tiny little scrapers.  It was clearly micro-surgery to properly transplant and farm the oysters!

After the demonstration, it was about noon.  We decided that some drinks were in order.  Havarki pearls has a pension, which is a family-run place to stay, maybe a dozen individual thatch huts.  A beautiful open air restaurant and bar.  The bar: always open.   Awesome.  After drinks, it’s back to the boat and more catching up with Matt and Karen.  Matt and I discussed the tiny font, three column fully covered 8.5×11 page of paper listing all the work that should still be done to the boat.  It used to be Matt’s list.  Now it’s my list and I’m looking forward to tackling it, but it is laughingly long!

Day one done.  Day two, day three, day one thousand, they are waiting.

Jul 10 2010

Getting to Fakarava

Tag: tripsJonathon Haradon @ 9:59 am

(concerning events, June 12th-June 16th)

I wanted to take a rugged cargo ship from Tahiti to Fakarava.  A small cargo ship that bucked through wild seas for three days.  A vessel where I had to bring my own food and sleep on the deck for want of space anywhere under shelter.  The Cobia.  A wild adventure to start a indefinitely long voyage.  Sure there are nicer cargo ships, the Aranui 3 for example or the Stella Marie X, where the ships are large with less rolling, you are given a deluxe cabin, and fed three generous meals a day.  The Cobia however, is not one of the nicer.  It was the cheapest and the only amenities as far as i could tell was a life jacket.  It would take three days for the Cobia to reach Fakarava.  I imagined three days of pitching over a wild ocean, holding onto the rail and praying my one hundred pounds of supplies I was taking to Syzygy would not fly into the ocean.  I couldn’t wait.

On Friday, trying to buy my ticket on the cargo ship to Fakarava, I had to walk three miles from Papette, mostly along a nearly deserted road leading to the cargo ships.  It was deserted because the cargo dock workers were in cahoots with the firemen, who had decided to strike on Thursday.  Incidentally, my flight from Los Angeles was the last international flight into or out of Tahiti for a week.  No firemen = no international flights.  For some reason, domestic flights could still happen.  Apparently the airport has lower standards of safety for it’s domestic travelers than the international tourist travelers.

In route to the cargo ship offices, a mile from downtown Papette, I had to walk past a blockade.  In the middle of the two-lane road there were just a couple of small tires.  There was also a dozen large Tahitians.  They looked to be happily inebriated.  As I walked up to the blockade, I debated whether or not I should turn around as I had seen a number of cars and motorcycles  do during my tedious on-foot approach.  I figured the worst they could do to me was direct me to an alley, rob me and leave me for dead, but that most likely the worst would be a simple get lost.  So I strode up to the largest Tahitian I saw.  He was laughing, clearly enjoying not working and instead turning frustrated drivers around.  With my limited (read: non-existent) French, I pantomimed that I wished to walk over the bridge separating Papette from the cargo ships on Moto Utu.  I stumbled the words, I ‘erred’ quite a bit.  I smiled.  I said ‘It’s O.K.?”  repeatedly.  He boomed with laughter, clearly at me and kept repeating something in Tahitian.  Definitely not French, I can at least recognize French.  I walked on, sure I was the laughing stock of the dozen bouncers, but glad to have been able to walk across.

Two miles later, I arrived at one of the cargo ship offices.  It was small, clean and wonderfully air-conditioned.  Sweat that had been running profusely stopped in it’s tracks.  No matter what happened, I planned on stretching out this visit as long as possible.  This would not be hard, I’m sure, given my aforementioned skills in French.

Short it was not, but I exited with a ticket on the cargo ship Cobia bound for Fakarava.  I was even in a cabin instead of sleeping on the deck.  For food and water though, I was on my own for the three day trip.  It took me asking them about the strike though, for the nice ladies to realize I should call the captain first thing Monday morning to ascertain whether or not the Cobia would be leaving.  I left with his number in hand.

I called Monday morning.  The Cobia was not leaving.  The strike was still on.  The captain said call the next day.  I called the next day.  The strike had lifted!  The Cobia was still not going.  Trouble with the fuel.  Try again next week.  Frustrated, I envisioned this laissez-faire attitude continuing indefinitely.  I wanted to be on my way to Fakarava now!  The incompatibility of travel outside industrialized nations combined with industrialized-nation-attitude of impatient hurry-ness was becoming apparent.

No other cargo ships were leaving for Fakarava until next Monday so I wouldn’t get to Fakarava until next Thursday.  Nine more days of waiting in Papeete and on a ship was simply unacceptable to me.  So Tuesday afternoon a refund was procured, the nice Tahitian ladies in the air-conditioned office profusely apologized, and the cute French woman at Air Tahiti was happy to fly me to Fakarava.  I would be in Fakarava tomorrow.

I flew from Papeete to Fakarava on Wednesday for three times the cost and in only three hours, instead of three days.  A symmetrically fair trade I suppose.  I also traded the rugged wild seas for plush seats and fantastic overhead fly-by views of the atolls.

Landing in Fakarava, you could look out both sides of the plane and see nothing but water.  The atoll ring is merely 450 feet wide, taken up almost entirely by a runway.  After the plane landed, a walked about 100 feet to the tiny open air baggage check.  20 feet beyond that was a small dock for dinghies.  I was disappointed that Matt was hanging out at the dock, but apparently he was having fuel problems of his own.  with my stellar French skills, I hitched a ride into town, got dropped off at the main dock, and asked the one boat there if he had a VHF.  I asked him this by pantomiming that I was holding something and talking into it and then said “VHF?”  with a clear uplift of my voice.  He replied “Oui!” but then intimated that it might not work.  Karen’s voice rang through though, when I called and Matt was sent to pick me up.

I have finally joined our boat.  I am now part of the trip.  I am emotionally simultaneously exhausted/overwhelmed and bursting with energy.  I am ready for an indefinitely long voyage!