Athanor Expedition

Our exploration of land and sea

Island time - a lesson in patience

Note: sadly, we don't have images to share this round. As you will ready below, both of our computers ceased working in the first couple of weeks. It's a long story, but a solution if forthcoming. Something to look forward to!

Where does the time go? I started this entry over a week ago. Much of our first month aboard reads a bit like an episode of America's Funniest Videos; getting our sea legs back, struggling to pick up a mooring ball in 20 knot winds, watching not one, but two chartered yachts hit the sand bottom, only to find out own depth sounder is off 1/2 meter and, suffice to say, now only the strongest barnacles remain on our keel. I've elaborated on one of my favorite episodes below.

It's been raining pretty solidly for three days. For two nights, they were torrential - a great opportunity to catch rainwater to fill the water tanks. That is, if we'd had a rain catchment system (we finished ours today, under sunny skies - and absolutely no rain). However, the forward awning, hung low to keep the interior of the boat cool, was full of water. Rob estimates we had a good 10 gallons. It's 6a.m.; the sun is just rising. I am stationed port side, about mid-ship, Rob is forward. Using a plastic bowl, he scoops the water out of the awning, walks it to me. I take the handoff, pivoting aft (imagine the medicine ball exercise), take a few steps, pouring the water through a large funnel into the hole on the deck that leads to the water tank. Yes, for 10 gallons of water.

A theme that has threaded through these four weeks has been patience. We "city-slickers" are used to life moving pretty fast - having access to what we need day or night. Here, life moves slower. Mornings in Raiatea are hustling and bustling, but then it all slows as the heat rises - to the point that by noon, the town is closed, folks are having lunch and generally resting, only to wake up and re-open from 2-5, then closing promptly for the night to spend time with family. They seem to have work/life balance figured out. Reflecting back over our first month, the time seems to break down into three distinct phases:

Phase One: Readying Athanor for launch.

Pushing hard - we're good at that. After three flights, we arrived in Raiatea on a Wednesday afternoon and were ready to launch eight days later. Our daily routine: Make our way to the boat yard by 7:30; work until 11:30 or until we feel we'll pass out from the heat (whichever came first); back to the sweet relief of the [partially] air-conditioned bungalow for lunch and a nap; back to the boatyard until 6; in bed by 7:30. No joke.

As we wrote in our last post, a huge part of getting the boat back in the water after 18-months is making sure all of the systems work. This was our first test of patience/being present with "what is."The SSB (single side band) radio receives, but doesn't transmit. This is the 15# radio that we lugged back to the states, paid someone to fix, then lugged back again. Sigh. Luckily, Rob found a replacement on eBay and our friend Tim (s/v Sababa) is lugging it (plus a new laptop) when he makes his way here on June 1st. We owe him big time! Next up, the generator. Worked fine when we left. We use the generator as a back up to charge our batteries, when either the sun is absent or the solar panels aren't doing their job. Next item not working? You guessed it, the solar panels! We have since ordered new panels, which were shipped from Tahiti to the airport in Raiatea. As luck would have it, the Raiatea airport has a dinghy dock, so we motored on over, loaded the panels in and off we went. Good news, they are working great. The opportunities for growth continue, but I'll stop there.

The highlight of our 10 days in the boatyard was spending time at our bungalow - ha! Our hosts, Manu (28), Kalei (27) and Mare-tu (3), are a sweet, industrious family. The evening they invited us for dinner was a gift. Manu prepared two difference dishes using Thon Rouge (red tuna) he caught himself. Over dinner we learned that both Manu and Kalei grew up in French Polynesia; Manu in Raiatea, Kalei in Tahiti. Both we're world champions paddlers! They speak Tahitian, French and excellent English. Kalei also speaks fluent Spanish. She shared that growing up she wanted to be a Spanish teacher, but her mom didn't want her to go away to university in France. Now, she works for a bank in Utuora. Manu was raised by his mother and grandfather. He told us that both died young, leaving him the house they now live in. He built the adjacent house (the bungalow we stayed in) by watching YouTube videos. Note: as to the computer issues mentioned earlier, both of our computers died after charging them at the bungalow. We're guessing the YouTube videos didn't cover grounding power. :(

Phase Two: We're in the water.

Saturday, after a quick grocery shopping trip in Uturoa (the main village in Raiatea), we quickly stashed perishables in the frig (a lot fewer items are considered perishable here than in the states), released the dock lines and departed the marina in light winds and blue skies. We motored a whopping 2.9 miles across the lagoon from Raiatea to the island of Ta'haa, Baie Apu. We picked up a mooring ball, turned off the engine, and dug out our swim suits. For the first time since our arrival, we dove in! Warm, salty, crystal clear blue water. Instantly, I felt 18-months of cobwebs fade away.

The next two days we spent getting re-acquainted with Athanor. What exactly do we have on board, and where is it all stowed? The re-commissioning process is still underway, but now we've got turquoise blue water beneath us and a constant breeze funneling through the boat. Ahhhhh.

The mooring ball holding us belongs to a pearl farm just around the bend, so when their marketing person (lol) came by for a visit in his small motorboat offering us a tour, we took him up on it. The pearl farm is a small production, family owned business in operation for 30+ years. They sell their pearls in French Polynesia only - which we've come to appreciate. Mom/daughter rate each pearl, son runs the production side, plus a little marketing. It didn't take me anytime to find an assortment of pearls to purchase. For now, we've bookmarked it for a future visit.

In Baie Apu, we enjoyed reconnecting with our Aussie friends Andrew and Claire, s/v Eye Candy. Several days later, with cobwebs swept and some sense of order down below, at long last, we launched our sails and made our way around to the west side of Ta'haa. We anchored behind a Motu - essentially a teeny tiny island that sits just inside the reef, separating the ocean from the lagoon. We find a sweet spot on the shelf of the reef - 6 feet of depth on one side (too little) and 60 feet on the other (too much). As we anchored, a curious "puppy" aka black tip reef shark came to check us out. Another reminder that we are in a special place.

We chose this spot because of The Coral River. Over the next couple of days, we got closer to this exquisite place on earth by taking our dinghy up river a short distance, walking on the reef towards the opening to the ocean. We pulled on our snorkeling gear, slipped into the river and floated with the current, witnessing the tropical aquarium that occurs whether we're there or not. I was screaming with delight - on the inside - and kept thinking about how much I want to share this experience with our family!

Phase Three: Settling in - Adjusting to not doing.

We're working on that now. It's harder than you might imagine.

I'm writing to you now from Athanor's forward deck on the island of Bora Bora. It's 5:30a.m., with a light breeze and the sun just rising. The island is waking up - fishing boats buzzing about, rooster's crowing, a few fish are splashing about, and I assume that the horn I hear honking is someone being picked up to make their way to work in the many hotels on this island.

We won't wait so long to write next time.


Susan & Rob