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Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
Beach Party at Tahanea
06/03/2011, Tahanea Atoll, Tuomotu Archipelago

Although yesterday was Antoine's official birthday, our friends on kid-boats Charade and Callipyge arrived this morning, so we had a party on the beach so that Antoine's birthday could be celebrated with their six children. So the crews of Evergreen, Moondance, Charade, Callipyge, and Ipanema joined us on shore where we made a huge driftwood bonfire, and shared food and drink and birthday cake. Antoine got a spear gun as a gift from Arnaud on Charade (photo), and a hat woven from palm fronds. The kids frolicked in the lagoon while the adults polished off rum & cokes.

At 8 PM Arnaud and Carole from Charade and Tomas from Callipyge came out to pick me up; I took them to the tidepools on the ocean side of the atoll and showed them how and where to find lobster. We walked in ankle- to knee- deep water in the tidepools looking for and collecting lobster; our haul was 18 lobsters. Two hours walking in the tidepools sure wore me out, by legs feel like rubber now!

Tomorrow we are getting together for a lobster-with-garlic-butter feast at lunch time. Charade will also be grilling a grouper they caught and we'll be bringing over the garlic butter and some marlin sushi.

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Antoine's Birthday in Tahanea
06/02/2011, Tuomotu Archipelago

Today was Antoine's 13th birthday. We told him some weeks ago, that we didn't have any gifts for him, because there was nothing to buy on the islands that he wanted. He's OK with that. This morning, he said that "my best birthday gift was being in French Polynesia for my birthday". That sure made us happy since that is all we had to offer.

I did order some things from that I knew he would like. This would be a new Nerf dart gun, and some of his favorite books of the "Alex Rider" series. We had the items shipped to an intermediary in the US (, and they will then be shipped to our agent in Papeete, for us to pick up when we arrive there.

Pascale baked a chocolate cake, and we had the crews of Evergreen, Moondance, and Ipanema over for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, followed by birthday cake.

After cake, we (John, Francois, Joshua, and I) went out after dark with headlamps to the tidepools at low tide to get lobster. This time, with a little more experience and improved technique, we caught 6 lobsters, and only 2 got away. We are saving them for a feast tomorrow.

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Arrival at Tahanea Atoll
06/01/2011, Tuomotu Archipelago

We departed Makemo at sunset and sailed all night, so that we would arrive at our destination, Tahanea Atoll, in daylight and at slack tide. The Tuomotus present special challenges, as each ring shaped atoll has only a few passes to enter, and these passes can have huge, dangerous currents and waves, depending on the tides. So the general practice is to try to time the entry and exit of an atoll at slack tide, which is not easy, since this is not published. We try to time slack tide about 30 minutes after low or high tide, and when we approach the entrance, we look with binoculars at the conditions ahead within the channel. If there are large standing waves in the channel then we heave to and wait until the conditions improve.

We arrived at Tahanea around 7 a.m., but there was a still a very strong current in the channel. So we hove to, and waited a few hours until the tidal current reduced.

On entering the channel, we found the most beautiful anchorage. This place is like what everyone thinks of when they imagine Polynesia.

Like Makemo, Tahanea is like a large inland sea of perfectly flat, calm water. The atoll is large enough so that its waters extend to the horizon; you can't see all of it at once. The ring of coral surrounding it has palm trees and jungle like overgrowth, about 100 yards wide. There is no village and there are no permanent inhabitants, only copra (dried coconut) harvested by farmers who come out here seasonally.

The water here is so clear, you can easily see the anchor on the bottom through 40 feet of water. The bottom is full of coral heads, which the anchor chain can quickly get wrapped up in, so boats here use fenders to keep at least some of the anchor chain off of the bottom, to maintain some of the shock absorbing catenary.

This evening, John and I went out after dark to the tidepools at low tide, with headlamps, to hunt for lobster. We saw several, but grabbing one with your hands requires being very quick and takes a little practice. Also, grabbing these things and throwing them into a bag is a bit intimidating. After five of them got away, we managed to get one, and returned to the boat to have steamed lobster with garlic butter. We'll return the next day and hope to get several more with our improved technique.

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Lots More Fun In Makemo


After more than a week of hanging out in Makemo we are moving on today. Makemo turned out to be a great stop, better than any of us expected. Having the wharf to tie to was a huge plus. We also met lots of locals, especially the kids who were off from school the first week we were here. Another part of what made this a fun stop was the other four boats that we knew from other stops and had lots of fun with here. Had we been the only boat here I am sure it would not have been quite the same.
Reminiscing about life in California.
I joined the crew from Evergreen and Moondance for a dinghy trip across the pass two days ago. I had really been wanting to get over there as the area looked great with a nice white beach and reefs for snorkeling, but the current in the pass was too strong to kayak through (I had tried twice). We had a nice time hanging out on the beach for an hour or so, reminiscing about our sailing experiences in California and other adventures we had all had at home. I also found a few more shells to add to my collection.
Playing at movie night.
Friday night last week was movie night for the village. They project films onto the wall of a building near the harbor. The movies are free but they sell a delicious barbeque dinner to go with it. Between the two movies I entertained the rambunctious and noisy crowd with some Mozart, fiddle music, and Yankee Doodle. They were very appreciative and cheered madly (all the time) so not sure how much they actually heard, but they seemed to enjoy it. It definitely was something different, since I doubt they get violinists here very often.
Me playing violin after dinner.
The parties on Charade have continued nicely. Our last one included a few locals that Carol and Arno met by way of having some sculptures made. They brought some delicious plates of food and we and Charade also made some food. Carol specializes in deserts and made two great pies as well.
Bruce entertaining Victor and Arno.
After dinner Bruce played accordion and Pascale sang a few songs. I also played a few violin pieces. Having the musical entertainment at our parties really adds a nice dimension that normally does not happen at most cruiser get-togethers.
Carol and Thoma in Charade's galley.
At one of our earlier dinner parties.
The day after our big blow out on Charade with the local's, they invited all of us to their house for Sunday lunch. It was a huge affair, with tons of food. Victor barbeques the fish that he catches and it was great. He goes fishing daily and usually comes back with tons of fish. He drives his boat like a cowboy trying to lasso a cow, but with a harpoon in his hand. He herds the fish onto a shallow area and then hurls the harpoon at them while speeding along next to the fish in the boat.
Victor grilling the fish and beef.
Getting ready for lunch at Victor's house.
In between the parties and violin playing I have had time for three scuba dives. Yesterday, my third dive, we went outside the atoll into the open ocean and dove off the front of the atoll. We were down for almost an hour and dove to almost 80 feet. The coral there was amazing. It was the most coral I have ever seen. It stretched all over the place, like huge fields. Two dolphins swam quickly by us, plus we saw a big variety of fish.
Coral growing like a tree.
Ludo, the instructor, floating along.
More coral.

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Fete Des Meres
05/29/2011, Makemo Atoll

Today happened to be the French Mother's Day, and we celebrated it in traditional style at the house of some of the locals here in Makemo.

The locals gave Pascale a flower necklace (like a Hawaiian Lei) to wear for the day.

Many of the local women wore intricately woven crowns of flowers as well.

We went to local villager Victor's house, where he and his wife put on a feast which was huge and never ending, with barbequed meat, chicken, fish, and many side dishes. Here Victor cooks on his backyard grill.

The lunch, which started at noon and lasted all afternoon, was lubricated with their homemade "beer" - fermented pineapple juice.

Victor and a friend enjoy the grilled fish.

Besides us, the crews of Charade and Callipyge were there, plus with Victor's wife and children, there must have been 20 of us. We were delighted by their hospitality to us. They told us this was the first time they had invited over visiting sailors.

On the way back to the boat, it seemed all the island's kids had turned out on the wharf to try to push, throw, or drag each other into the warm water. It was quite a festive and happy scene.

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Music on Charade
05/28/2011, Makemo Atoll

We got together on board catamaran Charade, Bruce with his accordeon (Pascale accompanying with her voice).

And John played some pieces on his violin, while Arnaud, of Charade, observes.

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Diving At Last
05/25/2011, Makemo

[post by John] Me a SCUBA diver.
So, after bouncing around between tropical locations for the last 15 years, but never venturing very far beneath the water, today I took the plunge and went on my very first SCUBA dive. I always though SCUBA looked like an awful lot of hassle and expense when I could just jump in the water and see quite a bit by snorkeling. But after staying underwater for almost 50 minutes today and exploring the depths as the fish do, I see the benefits of also being a SCUBA diver. I joined our friends from another boat, Thomas and Laure. We were picked up from our boats by the dive boat and then we motored out about five minutes to the reef. After about one minute of instruction from the dive master, in a mixture of French and English, mostly just about hand signals to use underwater and how to inflate and deflate the buoyancy compensator, I flopped backwards out of the boat and into the water.
Thomas with his mask complete off.
Dive instruction.
I descended with the instructor to about twenty feet and after that I was on my own for awhile so I swam around and took a few photos of my classmates learning how to clear their masks. When my turn came I was a little confused since nothing had been explained to me before, but with some hand signals (can't talk underwater anyway, so no problem that I don't speak much French) I figured it out that the instructor wanted me to take out my mouthpiece and try exhaling without it. That was pretty easy. Next I had to remove my mask completely and then put it back on and practice blowing all the water out. This was a little harder but I managed it okay. After this it was back to swimming around and taking photos and chasing sharks. The deepest part of the dive was 35 feet. After we finished and were headed back to the anchorage the instructor complimented me on being extremely relaxed in the water for it being my first time diving. Everything felt pretty natural to me. Breathing from a tank was the only part I was not so sure about at first, but once I got my rhythm of one quick breath and slowly exhaling, I was set. I hope to complete my PADI certification in Fakarava, the third atoll we will visit in the Tuamotus.
Underwater life.
Swimming as the fish do.
The day after we arrived in Makemo we were joined by friends on four other boats. All the boats are tied to the wharf and it was a lot of fun helping tie up the new boats as they arrived. Lots of locals, and especially kids, were on hand to help as well. It was a bit of a party for awhile on the dock as everyone was really excited to finally be in the Tuamotus, not to mentioned being tied to a wharf for a change. Our friends on Charade caught a nice sized blue marlin on their way in and gave all the boats of bag of fish. That night all the French boats joined together on Charade for a huge sushi and sashimi feast. I provided entertainment during the cocktail hour. After dinner Bruce played accordion and Pascale sang and I played a few more piece on the violin.
Five cruiser boats plus Antoine's boat, Banana Split.
Helping Banana Split tie up.
Helping Moondance into the dock.
Saying goodbye to drifter Anne and her father.
Yesterday I went for a six mile walk exploring the atoll a bit. I did not find a whole lot of interest, but while I walked I kept busy trying to learn how to weave coconut palm fronds. I was not very successful but when I got back to the boat I downloaded a bunch of instructional information about flax weaving and now have completed a fish and a flower from coconut fronds. On the way back into town I opened a coconut and enjoyed some thirst quenching coconut milk.
Fishing boats passed while walking into town.
Local kids are extremely friendly.
Tonight I talked with two men on a boat from Padua, Italy. It was fun meeting some Italians and getting to practice speaking Italian. We met one other Italian boat a few weeks ago but they were not very friendly so no luck then, but these guys seem much more open to conversation.
Calou really attracts the locals, and even a guitar player.
This morning I practiced violin for about three hours at the foot of the wharf. There is a nice covered area with good acoustics and a terrific view of the bay. It turns out there is a movie night there on Friday which is very popular with the islanders. I have been invited to play before the movie starts. Also, a man drove up on his scooter, Felix, who heard me practicing today and asked if I want to play at the high school. So now, in addition to providing cocktail hour music, I have two engagements in town.

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Reef fish
05/25/2011, Makemo Atoll

Francois and I did a scuba dive along the reef today, descending to 100 feet. We saw large schools of fish and some white tip shark.

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