Thursday, May 21, 2015

What the Fakarava are we doing????

Well we're still anchored at the South pass of Fakarava, our anchor chain is still wrapped around a coral head, and the water is still absolutely beautiful.

Heather eggs me on to write the next blog update, but there isnt that much to say! We are anchored in "Screen saver country" as my brother Andreas calls it and he's right. We are having a really good time mixing our days with snorkeling, diving, homeschooling, and visiting tiny islets that have a few palm trees and coral pink sand. We have brought most of our "toy" fleet out as well, the kayak and paddleboards have been out, the sailing dinghy has been sailed and is out of the way so the kids (and adults occasionally) can jump off our cockpit hardtop, and the dinghy is our workhorse that gets a daily workout and treats us well. It still leaks some air, but its good enough and the engine has been perfect, in spite of my diesel experiment a week ago. I also found a new "Mexican panga" setting where the engine can be propped most of the way out of the water so that you can navigate in super shallow water- about 8 inches, which is what we have a lot of around here.

When we arrived there were two other boats at this end of the pass, and both were anchored on the north side of the pass, so we discovered our own unique anchor spot, in 8 feet of water, and surrounded by reefs and islands on 3.5 sides. I think we arrived a week ago-ish, and since then we've seen more and more boats come and now there are thirteen at this end of the pass, but there is still plenty of room. Our anchor spot is tempting for many but seems to be best suited for catamarans with skippers who like to explore, and happily our friends Bob the Cat are anchored in our little coral pen. We've already had one "TexMex" night with whatever we've been able to scrounge up, and we even were able to make some successful margaritas. Amaia and Alina like having two boys their ages to play with and explore, and Heather and I enjoy the adult company- we enjoy hearing different stories and backgrounds, and comparing notes on cruising with kids, homeschooling etc. We also tend to gather more information on destinations down the road for us, which is helpful.

The other way I can tell that we have been here for a while is how comfortable the kids are getting with the reef sharks. When we first got to the Tuamotus, we were all a little hesitant to jump in to the water that visibly had sharks. Yesterday though, Amaia and Alina were rinsing off on the back steps of the boat after having played in the water, and Amaia spies two sharks that started swimming around the back of the boat, and all I heard in a sharp, loud voice was "Alina! Sharks! Quick lets jump in and scare them away!" and the two tanned, freckled Rancho Colorados swimmers go cannon-balling off the back, frightening the daylights out of these elegant sharks! We have come a long way.

Deeper underwater we do give the sharks a greater berth. I've done three pass drift dives with my scuba buddies Tristan and Alexia and its quite amazing. We have developed a routine now where we load everyone and the gear in the dinghy- drop off Mykaela and the two girls at the beach and coral reef, and then Heather drives us out to the edge of the pass, fighting the current slightly as we go. We have only dove on an incoming tide as its safer, and there are more sharks to see, though on the outgoing tide there are more fish and feeding sharks, though less visibility and the risk of shooting out in to the Pacific Ocean. We suit up quickly, put on the heavy tanks and flop over the side of the dinghy and the three of us start descending fairly quickly. "Drift" diving is exactly what it is, you equalize your bouyancy, and just start drifting with the current- which is anywhere from 1-3 knots usually, and watch the scenery go by- sort of an advanced, immersive version of the yellow submarines ride at Disneyland. The fish are generally small, as the big pelagics are farther out, but they are quite indifferent to us, and we cruise down a sand "highway" which gives way to fields of coral. We stay to the right of the pass and then after the first field of coral, we edge to the middle a bit more and find some dead coral to hang on to, and simply watch the show. There are usually 60-100 sharks- Greys, white and black tips - all just hovering in place, slowly swimming against the current. Occasionally, they will loop around and swim to the back with the current. Its quite a spectacular site to see and quite mesmerizing-the only tinge of concern I get is one one larger one will occasionally stray from the pack and slowly loop around us- even at a distance. By hanging on to the coral, we let our bodies drift horizontally downstream with the current and look somewhat like a flag or pennant fluttering on a flagpole. After a while we let go and continue our drift, stopping at two more shark "walls" and eventually heading back to the right and up a 30 foot coral wall that gets more spectacular as you get to the surface- there are tons of fish and its where Heather and the little girls do their own version of drift snorkeling. I am sure there will be other great snorkeling and diving spots- but this one ranks pretty high.

All the recent arrivals have also helped confirm that this is a pretty special spot, and we've decided to linger a while longer. We will most likely head to the village on the north end over the week end, and hopefully visit a pearl farm, internet and have some baguettes and ice cream early next week, but for now we are quite happy to make do with our dwindling provisions. We are getting caught up on some small boat projects, but are still frustrated by some consistent issues, and some untimely new ones- our dive compressor has failed to cooperate (probably electrical) - but we have thankfully had other cruising boats fill our tanks- the price is one beer per tank. All in all things are holding together well enough, with the generator and watermaker doing well- which guarantees our self sustainability in remote areas.

We're sending a big hello and lots of hugs from ScreenSaver Country- and hope you are all doing well! CHRIS

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  1. love reading about your adventures! -Eric Johnsen

  2. Sounds incredible! Thanks for sharing!