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Day 1,978 - Toau, Tuamotus (15° 48.2S 146° 09.0W)
19:01hrs - October 29th 2012
A Little Hard Work

'You can help us dig a hole.'

After a kiss on both cheeks from Valentine, a Polynesian handshake from Gaston, followed by an enthusiastic man-hug, these were my instructions.
It seems, for reasons that are still a little unclear to me, the old well in Anse Amyot where they draw slightly brackish water for washing and bathing, that was just a few yards away, was no longer of any use and so a new one had to be dug - hand dug, through coral packed as hard as concrete.

We've visited Gaston and Valentine half a dozen times over the last year, and with each visit to their little motu, an island paradise that they have essentially to themselves, there is work to be done. Gaston, who is 44-years old, enjoys the self sufficiency of living away from the village and off the land and the sea. And Valentine, as long as her washing machine is working and can indulge in the occasional glass of rum, is happy here, too. But they're rarely alone. Even now, well outside of cruising season, sailboats drift in and out of their little coral cul-de-sac to enjoy their company, to drop off supplies, or like me, ask what they can do to help.

Not that they need it, but Gaston simply has a work ethic that inspires others
to join in. Whether it's chasing down a pig for a family roast, building a fish trap, filleting your harvest, packing copra (one sack of dried coconut meat from approximately 120 nuts sells for $70), chopping wood, hunting parrot fish, raking the beach, catching lobster or digging a new well, it's a life that, while simple, requires a lot of work.

For three days we picked, chipped and shoveled layers of sand, shell and coral. We rested regularly under the shade of a palm tree, sprawling casually in the manner of construction workers, hydrating on bottles of cold Hinano, and eventually, much to my relief, we reached water.

My work here is done, we're sailing north to Apataki tomorrow to begin another project, but Gaston and Valentine are far from finished. So if you find yourself in north Toau one day, and are not afraid of a little hard work, stop in, say hi, and lend a hand.

Over a month ago, as a parting gift, Valentine gave us a piece of bone to carve, killer whale bone, found in Passe Otugi in south Toau. She asked only that perhaps we carve something for her, a souvenir. So during our recent visit we gave Gaston and Valentine one of our twin tikis (see below) explaining that it should stay here with them, in the South Pacific - its home, while the other half continue sailing around the world with us, and one day, eventually, back to our home - New York.

Recently I found some time to carve another souvenir, two more Polynesian tikis - one from the sea (whale bone) and one from the land (teak wood) joined together to form a single tiki, one that will always remind me of our new friends, people we have connected with, who may live a very different life to ours, but share the same deep appreciation for a place in the world where land and sea meet in the most perfect way imaginable.

 
 


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Day 1,969 - Fakarava, Tuamotus (16° 31.4S 145° 28.3W)
18:15hrs - October 20th 2012
Fakarava Story

The time has come to leave Fakarava behind us for a while and it feels a little strange to go. We have become so comfortable and relaxed here over the weeks and months that it’s been our home. Each time we come we discover another layer of experience and detail that adds even more depth and color to our existing memories, making Fakarava truly one of our favorite places to be on the planet.

For me visiting here over these last few years has been a little like re-reading a book. Each new reading reveals details or meanings I didn't see the first time, and though the words don’t change, my experience within the story does.  Fakarava is a tiny place with its own story, and I am very grateful I got the chance to read so much of it.





 



Quick Fix: 16° 03.9 S / 145° 37.1 W

October 19th 2012 (day 1,968)
Conditions:  Wind: 16/ESE     Sky: Clear
                    Boat SPD: 0   (Anchored)

Breakfast of Champions
Unlike the supermarkets back in New York, or even Papeete, which have entire isles dedicated to breakfast, with every flavor of cereal, muesli and granola imaginable, out here,
in the Tuamotus, there's a serious cereal shortage (and of course only powdered milk). Sure, for around $10 you might find a dusty box of Cocopops or home brand Corn Flakes, (which taste like crispy cardboard pieces), but that's about
all. However, we've discovered a better way to begin our day. We're anchored off the village of Rotoava, near a boulangerie, where each morning trays of fresh croissants and pain chocolat are pulled from the oven. I
t's not quite the breakfast of champions, but when it tastes this good, who cares. - NH





 
 


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Day 1,962 - Fakarava, Tuamotus (16° 31.4S 145° 28.3W)
19:25hrs - October 13th 2012
Why Hurry?

We're making remarkably slow progress. In fact, since we left New York over five years ago, this year
has been Dream Time's slowest one on record - we've only added 2,430 nautical miles to our total trip log. (To put it into perspective we sailed 2,555 nautical miles from New Zealand in just three weeks
to get back here.)

I recently calculated that while we've embarked on an impressive number of sailing trips this year in French Polynesia, eighty-six to be exact, only eight can really be considered 'passages' - voyages that required night watches, that took us away from land and into open ocean. But even those eight passages, that totaled just fifteen days at sea, were little more than island and atoll hopping.

But it's not really about how far we've gone (or haven't gone in this case), but rather, where we are.
You see, we're in the middle of the South Pacific, an area of the world that is currently at the very top of
our cruising favorites. Sure there's lots of other countries and regions that we're going to love, too, and we'll get to those, but not yet.

If we had stuck to our original itinerary, which we drafted in New York six years ago and long before we knew precisely how many islands are actually out here, we would have crossed and waved goodbye to the South Pacific in a single year. We'd be in Asia by now, Africa, or perhaps, and I shudder to think,
even on our way back to the Americas!

Certainly we're eager to explore new countries and continents, the anticipation and excitement of arriving in a foreign port for the first time, discovering new anchorages, experiencing new cultures and storing new memories of a journey that has already changed our lives, but we're not particularly in a hurry to do it. Australia, Asia and Africa aren't going anywhere and so we've decided, at least for another season,
neither will we.

After-all, look at the photos, would you be in a hurry to leave?





 



Quick Fix: 16° 31.46 S / 145° 28.39 W

October 3rd 2012 (day 1,952)
Conditions:  Wind: 12/ESE     Sky: Clear
                    Boat SPD: 0   (Anchored)

Carving East
While the cruising fleet heads further west, towards New Zealand or Australia, we raised sail in Tahiti last week and during a brief respite in the trade winds carved a different route, one that took us 270 nautical miles east, back to a remote chain of idyllic lagoons, colorful reefs and pink coral sand beaches - the Tuamotus. We're anchored alone in South Fakarava, and now, out of cruising season, it feels even more secluded, wild and beautiful. We're spending
our days kayaking, diving, reading in the shade, and
ambling aimlessly around uninhabited islands. I'm carving,
too - twin tikis - from a chunk of killer whale bone,
a gift from Polynesian friends in Toau, our next destination. - NH