Thursday, June 16, 2011

Waiting for Weather the Workshop Way

There is no question we are a talented bunch.  As we wait for a weather window to move on to the next atoll in the Tuamotus, we do not sit idle.  On the contrary, we generously offer and share our knowledge and talents with gusto as we scramble to fit it all in every day.
We’ve been at Makemo Atoll for over a week now, tied to the government dock.  It’s likely the only dock we’ll tie to during our adventure in the South Pacific until we reach Australia in November.  And in a place where the basics of life like food and gasoline and water are either so expensive or non-existent, it is surprising that making this dock our home is free. 

Unrelenting 25-30 knot winds blew in on the third day of our visit (we’ve seen as high as 40 knots), often with short bouts of rainfall, and are not expected to let up until Saturday.  You’d think we’d welcome wind while on a sailboat.  However, when navigating these lagoons it is essential that the water is relatively flat and the sun is shining so that you can pick out any stealth coral that will dangerously appear in front of your boat just below the water’s surface without warning.  Several boats are lost each year to these coral heads.  With winds as strong as we’ve seen, white caps and waves as high as 3 feet have appeared atop this otherwise glassy beckoning water.  As such, it is imprudent to move around even to another anchorage within the atoll.  A further danger associated with this weather is that the open ocean waves outside the atoll’s windward side are breaking right over the motus, or islets, that make up the atoll ring, pouring immeasurable quantities of additional water into the lagoon.  All this water has to escape at low tide, creating currents in the pass (our escape route) that we do not want to find ourselves in.

And so we wait. 

The color of the water is what beckons. It is the stuff of picture-postcards with its aqua green shades that dangle the secrets of its abundant underwater life in front of your eyes. But with this weather, we haven’t had much opportunity to swim.  We were, however, fortunate to have gotten in a drift snorkel in the pass during the first days of our stay – but the water was moving so quickly that it was over before we knew it and we didn’t see much in the way of sea life.   Michael and a few of the others also managed two drift scuba dives, in which they did spot a few interesting species, including sharks. When they returned to the boat, they helped non-certifieds try it out beside the dock.  The kids especially were ecstatic.     


But we are not bored. IMG_0373We have been so busy waiting out this weather that our heads are spinning. After school is done in the morning, the kids get busy designing sails to propel them forward on a scooter, or playing games, or beachcombing for shells or corals.  Brittania’s Amanda and I have been leading yoga every morning around 9 a.m. on the dock. Ceilydh’s Diane, a professional writer, has been giving writing workshops to a few of us wanting to get our stories, adventures or knowledge published in magazines or newspapers.  I’ve been leading some career workshops for those who are wanting to figure out what to do when we get back to land life. Pico’s ‘girl’ Lauren has been helping a few of us craft gorgeous beaded creations using coral and shells as well as French Polynesian coins, while Pico’s ‘boy’ Lauren has been teaching Harrison more advanced computer programming than he’s been doing.  The guys are getting boat projects done together, living the ‘It Takes a Village’ adage. The women are trading recipes after each of our potlucks.  We’ve been taking turns hosting nightly ‘sundowners’.

We are hoping to move on to Tahanea, another atoll, by Saturday.  And we still have so much to do before then.

Makemo Atoll, Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia


  1. when you are in the neighborhood.

    From Pago,