Ok, so we decided to stay. We were all ready to push off to Kaeuhi having finished the filial duties and been in comms with the old dears for their Golden Wedding Anniversary but then……. There was internet, it was great to be able to talk to families again, Lou wanted to do some more booking of bits and pieces for New Zealand, the kids needed to do some serious school, Lou wanted to download more books for the kids to read and there was that internet thing……..
Typically, Skylark demanded some TLC as well. The large plate holding the taps on at the sinks disintegrated and with no hope of spares and the taps sitting loose, I fabricated from scratch a replacement. I was glad that the yard of aluminium plate I have carried for the last two years finally found a use as I cut a blank from it then shaped and cut it using my wonderful Dremel – a bit of equipment that I would heartily suggest any long term sailor should carry. I am ever thankful that Robert from Almost There gifted his well stocked Dremel box to us in Puerto Rico when it was decided they were heading back to the USA. I’ve made jewellery, engraved Skylark’s name and number on items (including the dinghy), polished rudder posts, cut wood, metal, sharpened machete, shaped lots of bits and pieces and now some outright fabrication with it too. A marvellous bit of kit – as long as you have the right attachments! You need a small portable vice to use it properly – $30 in Grenada.
Just to take advantage of our our weak will and help us justify our decision, along came the rubbish weather with 20+kts every day, little blue sky and lots of rain. Although we collected a lot of water for showers in our jugs, the daily temperature averaged low 80Fs and the night time temperatures fell as low as the 72F. We missed the sun.
In the end we stayed along side for another week with another three French boats that came in, waiting for decent weather as we were. Sadly they were not exactly hospitable types. We had great difficulty engaging any of them in meaningful conversation. The two boys on one of the boats went to play with the French doctor’s kids at the other end of the village. The local kids were a bit put out being made into pariahs too. None of the grown ups wanted to visit us either (“perhaps later….”), not a single invitation to come on board so in the end, I was less than impressed with our fellow pier guests. The most unfriendly and insular group of boaters we have come across. Just rude. Our kids ended up playing with an ever increasing number of local kids most afternoons after they had finished school, Skylark being a convenient jumping in spot with the added attraction of a kayak, and having great fun. I occasionally apologised loudly, insincerely smiling to the glaring bloke on the boat next door about the noise the kids were making. Before anyone says anything, this was some days after we had tried and failed to get along. By this point, I was at the “stuff it” phase. I certainly wasn’t going to stop the kids’ fun.
Enough of the rant.
We explored more of the N side of the atoll and had a few long walks up towards the airport although we never managed to get to the airport itself, being five miles or so up the road. We also found another store a mile or so out of the main village, one that we hadn’t read anything about in any of the Guides or Compendium. It is called “Bienvenue – Chez Tupana” and can be called on 980 333. Two interesting facts about it for those that come after us
1. It sells fuel. Not cheap but diesel and petrol are available for those that really need it at $1.70 a l for petrol and $1.67 for diesel (Sep 16 prices). That works out to be about $6.70 a US Gal. I’m jealous of the 25c a US gallon price that Greg in Trinidad and Tobago on So What is paying at the moment. Fill up, mate! It doesn’t get any better than that!
2. Far more importantly, it sells Cadbury’s chocolate, plain, almond and fruit and nut, in big bars. Lou thought she had died and gone to heaven and I suspect at least one of her 500 days died a death because of it. The fact that they had stock allowed us to justify walking back up to the store a couple of times.
The atoll, being wonderfully flat and with perfect roads, was just the place for roller blades and scooters. Lou and I occasionally got to have fun with them but it was on sufferance and never for long! I did find out that it was impossible to carry baguettes in our made to measure waterproof bag whilst riding a scooter, much to the amusement of a couple of good natured laughing locals who, having seen me whizz past on the way there, watched me slowly walking back carrying the scooter in one hand and the baguettes in the other.
Well outside the village on one of our walks, we were chased down by one of the wee girls who had taken us under her wing. She needed to make sure that we were back in time for a outdoor cinema that she excitedly told us would be held down by the pier that night. Cakes and ice creams would be for sale. She had decided early on that Lou’s French was good enough to follow her conversation so she talked at us in great long speeches. We couldn’t quite understand the references to a “discoteque”, but later worked it out that night after the kids came back having watched one of the Ice Age films in French to tell us about an second film for the adults, set in a disco. “They were wearing very short skirts and it had noisy music so we didn’t want to stay….” Oh, how that sentiment will change all too soon.
On the way up to the store, there is a narrow cut that has been made into a small boats mooring field. You cross it by bridge and we watched as some of the local kids had a swimming lesson in its beautifully sheltered water. Not a bad “baby pool”. Every time we passed it, there were kids playing there, jumping off the bridge or just cooling off, chatting whilst sitting in the shallows.
There finally seemed to be a couple of days gap in the weather and on the 6th Sep, we headed out having had one last stop at the excellent boulangerie. With about 100 miles to get to our next pass at Kaeuhi, we left having waited for bread, at 0930hrs on a falling tide, two hours after high slack. Perhaps not the best of choices. With wind over tide we had fairly significant standing waves as we exited and I was thankful we are a cat with an engine on both hulls giving us far more manoeuvrability than a monohull has. We got thumped with side waves and big eddies tried to spin us, requiring some fast work on the wheel and throttle variation. It wasn’t particularly bad (we had much worse coming out of Farmers Cay in the Bahamas) and was over in a couple of minutes as we got flushed out at over 10kts but for peace of mind, I think we will try closer to slack in the future. The race continued about half a mile out from the pass but we turned out of it quickly and were soon in normal seas again. With the wind on our stern, 20kts blowing and with 1.5m waves, we set jib only, running WNW to clear the NE corner of the atoll.
It was an easy sail and we slowed down with a couple of turns in the jib during the night. Dawn saw us 10 miles short of the Kaeuhi pass at the SW corner of the island.