Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


 August  2:  

      We left Makemo as close to sunset as we dared.  We were flushed out the reef pass going 10 knots over ground and getting tossed about a bit by all the current.  An hour before sunset,  we still had plenty of visibility to avoid the rocky edges of this narrow pass.  We planned an overnight sail to Fakarava, but the wind proved fickle and we ended up having to run the motor most of the night, too.  Kathleen has been ill with flu symptoms for the past couple of days, so I ended up doing most of the sailing myself.

     We wouldn't usually do this.  If the winds are light, we just take our time to get there.  If the current is strong in the pass, we wait until slack tide.  If one of us isn't feeling well, we sit tight and rest until everyone is ready.  But suddenly, we have a deadline from the modern world to meet and our whole world has changed from following the rhythms of nature, to burning however much diesel is necessary to be fast.  I find myself resenting the change.

      An hour after dawn we were (right on schedule) entering the south pass of Fakarava.  This pass is world renowned for scuba diving, but for now we'd have to pass it by.  We did stop for a day to visit with our old friends David and Mary on Giselle.  They are a delightful Scottish couple we met back in the Galapagos and have been running into ever since.  We also finally met a boat called Elvis the Gecko.  People had been telling us about this oddly named boat for weeks now because they have a 9 year old boy on board.  No sooner did we have the anchor down then Emmett was on the radio trying to invite him to go kneeboarding.

      But alas, we are not the only boat on a schedule.  Elvis the Gecko left later that day, and Giselle leaves tomorrow, so it was a short lived party.  As for us, I'll be heading to the Fakarava airport tomorrow to catch the afternoon flight to Tahiti in search of the DHL office. 

August 4:

      The airport on Fakarava consists of little more than a large hut next to a long, paved airstrip.  As the plane landed, a few locals stood, bedecked in fragrant leis for their trip to the big city.  A few sunburned tourists anxiously awaited their return to reality and representatives from the few small guest houses here stood with more leis, ready to greet their new arrivals. 

      Our flight went first to Rangiroa, another large atoll west of here, and then on to Tahiti.  The view of the  atolls and islands from the airplane was spectacular.  Rather than a can of soda, Air Tahiti served fresh juice in flight.  Lovely.

      I deplaned at exactly 5pm.  Unfortunate since that was the precise time the DHL office across the road closed.  So that left me with little to do that evening except find a hotel room and a bite to eat, both of which were accomplished in short order.  The following morning I was standing at the door of the DHL office when they opened at 7:30am, which left me the rest of the morning to wander around the city of Papeete.  I found a boat store to pick up a few parts, but had no luck finding a sailmaker to get more sail cloth or repair tape for the mainsail.  My last stop before heading back to the airport was the grocery store, where I stuffed my bag with cheeses, fresh produce, and a few other items that are impossible to find in the out island stores.

      Returning to Fakarava, I was pleased to see Uliad floating right where I had left her.  Everything is so flat here that from the top of the stairs that exit the plane, I could see Kath & Emmett getting into the dinghy to come and get me.  Never has an airport pickup been so easy.  They just pulled up to the dock in front of the airport hut, took my bag and drove me back to Uliad.  The loot from the grocery store was well received, as was the news that the package was sent.  Now we can shift back into cruising mode again! 

     Oh and if you're interested, total cost to mail a dozen sheets of paper: $350 round trip airfare to Tahiti + $60 one night stay in cheap motel + $60 DHL express charges.  Ouch. 

 

August 6:

     The main economic base of the Tuamotu Islands is the farming of "black pearls".  There is a particular species of oyster here that produces pearls of a magically metallic luster.  One used to have to pull them off rocks and open dozens before finding one odd pearl, but now they have discovered how to reliably induce each oyster to grow a pearl.  This has resulted in "pearl farms" popping up throughout the Tuamotus.  Families who once eked out a living by subsistence fishing and selling coconut meat are now living here in sturdy homes with electric appliances and satellite TVs thanks to the pearl industry.

      Yesterday we decided to rent bicycles and take a field trip to one of these pearl farms.  This was done under the pretense of being educational for Emmett, but Kathleen undoubtedly had other ideas in mind as well.  After a few inquiries about town, a friendly Frenchman drove up sporting a goatee so long he had braided it.  He took his bicycles out of the back of his pickup and, after agreeing on a time to come retrieve them, drove off without so much as taking our name, much less a security deposit.

      Fakarava is a great place to go for a bike ride.  The road is nicely paved, and perfectly flat.  The scenery is beautiful, the breeze cool.  Before long, we had gone 9km out of town to arrive at the farm.

      Were it not for the sign on the road, you could identify the pearl farms by their smell.  There's usually a big pile of empty oyster shells somewhere emitting a fetid stench as they bake in the sun.  As long as you're not directly downwind, you don't notice, but I'd hate to be a next door neighbor!   The place looked deserted at first, but after knocking on a couple of doors we found Diane, a plump Tuamotu native who smiled continuously despite walking with a pronounced limp due to a sprained ankle.  She led us through the operation and explained how they grow pearls with a 90% success rate:

      First, baby oysters are collected.  They're easy to find as these quarter-size shells attach themselves to the shells, ropes, and rocks around their parents.  These babies have a tiny hole drilled in their shells to attach them with fishing line to a long vertical rope, which is then buoyed and left to dangle in 30 to 60 feet of water.  The crystal clear water of the lagoons is perfect for the oysters, and the protected waters make it easy for the "farmers" to go out and find them again after 18 months.

     Now the oyster is "seeded".  This is a delicate surgical procedure carried out by highly trained workers.  There are a number of Chinese women here doing this work, but I understand a school has been established now in Rangiroa to teach native pearl surgeons.  The shell is gently pried open, and using long tools, a bit of shell and mantle is inserted into the body of the oyster.  Then back into the lagoon they go for another 18 months.   

     At the particular day we visited, they were processing these 3 year old oysters.  In a faded blue shack next to the dock, one man was removing oysters from the main line they had dangled from.  From there, another worker at another station gently wedged each shell open.  They the oysters went to the experts.  Three pearl surgeons sat at desks with a special oyster holder.  The shell was inserted and pried open a bit more.  With a bright light directed into the shell, long instruments pulled out a pearl.  Then, into the same pocket, a new "seed" was placed.  This was about the same size as the pearl just removed, and in another 18 months, a new larger pearl will have formed around it.  These workers went quickly and efficiently from one shell to another.  Although we peered around their shoulders to see what they were doing, none of our gawking would interrupt their concentration or rhythm.

Kath & Em watch the pearl harvestEmmett studies where pearls come from

     This one farm processes nearly 4000 oysters per day.  Diane claimed that they had a 90% success rate at producing a sellable pearl from their process.  You'd think at that rate that black pearls would be cheap.  But as we learned at our last stop of the tour, they're not.  Kath spent a good hour  the boutique digging through tray after tray of pearls sorted by size and quality to find her own little pile of treasure to bring home.

 

August 9:

     We made the long motorsail across the lagoon and are now back at the south end of Fakarava.  The pass here is famous for having hundreds of sharks, and several friends who have gone scuba diving there tell us it is a stunning sight to behold.  Kathleen, despite her terror of sharks, wants to try it, but only if I go first.  I guess if I survive it then she's willing to give it a try herself.

     Emmett was pleased to see another boat with kids on board when we anchored, and soon he was over introducing himself a couple of French kids.  They didn't speak English, but that didn't keep him from paddling off with their 8 year old boy on their kayak for a few hours. 

     We went to snorkel along the pass and were amazed by the carpet of lush, colorful coral lining the steep walls.  Tropical fish of every imaginable color played with us in the shallows, and only a rare blacktip shark cruised by.  Apparently the masses of grey sharks and whitetip sharks stay down in deeper water.  From the first moment I stuck my head in the water here though, I knew I'd have to come back with our scuba gear.  Words cannot describe...

     To top off our day, we met another American family that is staying at a small resort near our anchorage.  Emmett quickly fell in with their 9 and 10 year old daughters and before long we had all made plans to do homeschooling together in the morning.   So this morning he keeps checking the clock to see if it's time to go to shore for school.  It's not often he has this kind of enthusiasm for school so I'm savoring the moment.

 

August 12:

 

     Way back in the Galapagos Islands, I was talking to another cruiser about the South Pacific and he said to me, "When you get to the Tuamotus, you've got to visit Fakarava and dive in the south pass."  He went on to describe drifting through the pass while literally hundreds of sharks swam overhead...so many that it literally started to block out the light.  He was so enthusiastic about this being the best dive in the world that I figured I'd better check it out.  There are lots of dive shops around the world who brag about their "shark dives" which often involve chumming or feeding the sharks to make sure the customers see some.  I never liked the idea of feeding sharks.  It not safe for the divers and it upsets the ecology of the shark.  But here they gather naturally where the water funnels through the gap in the reef. 

     Kathleen, who is terrified of sharks, was less enthusiastic.  After diving with sharks in the Galapagos, she seems to have more of a morbid curiosity than a complete aversion to them.  She told me to go ahead and if I survived she might consider it.  There is a little resort and dive shop at the edge of the pass here run by a Frenchman named Marc.  It consists of four little guest huts on stilts, a hut for the dive shop on shore, and a tiny bar/restaurant at the end of the dock.  It's a beautiful, idyllic site looking out over the coral garden that edges the  pass in the reef.  But after seeing the Spartan quarters (tiny bed, salt water showers, plastic chairs) and the prices they command ($160 per night for 3 night stay) I was glad to be living on Uliad.

    I thought a little professional expertise might be in order so I signed up with Marc's next dive group.  It consisted of myself and a yachtsman from New Zeeland.  Marc gave us a quick rundown of the dive profile, we checked our gear, and then we were off in his skiff to the outside of the pass.

    Scuba diving here is always done as the tide begins to rise.  This guarantees an incoming current in the pass.  Not only does that assure the best visibility as pure ocean water pours in, but it also keeps divers from being swept out to sea.  Like the rest of the atoll, the sea bottom in the pass drops off suddenly to thousands of feet down, and the outgoing current tends to follow this bottom--dragging whatever along with it into the abyss.  Incoming tide it is!!  "That little pearl just made his fee worth it", I thought to myself.

    We jumped in and descended to a sandy patch 40 feet below.  Once we were all together, we just floated with the current down a gradual decline into a ravine covered in corals.  And soon, there they were.  Writhing shadows in the distance at first, but unmistakably sharks as they got closer.  Soon there were over a hundred swimming lazily all around us, but especially in a deeper ravine to our left.  They were slowly patrolling, waiting for the occasional weak or sick fish caught in the current.  Although we were drifting in the current, we thankfully didn't look sick or weak to them.  One sudden movement or an exhalation of bubbles from my mouthpiece and they would swim away.  With this knowledge, my confidence grew.  Nitrogen narcosis began to set in and as I floated at the edge of the ravine, the 23rd Psalm popped into my head: "Yea, though I swim through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil."  That's exactly what this was: the valley of the shadow of death.

The underwater valley of the shadow of death...

     We drifted through silently and after there were no more sharks, we began to gradually ascend the sumptuous coral wall.  The light gradually increased, the red and yellow colors returned, and we finally emerged right at the dock in front of the dive shop.  What a remarkable dive.  Even without the sharks, the bountiful tropical fish and coral were the best I've ever seen.  But the sharks...oh the beautiful, deadly swarm of sharks!

 

August 13:

    I didn't expect Kathleen to want to dive the south pass after my description, but to her credit she did.  Something has happened to her out here sailing.  She made no show of false courage and admitted to Marc immediately that she would be terrified, but she wanted to have a look anyway.  Marc was great and promised to stay right by her side for the whole dive.

    With Mark as Kathleen's buddy, that gave me a chance to record the whole thing with our underwater video camera.  The dive was much the same as the day before.  Marc and Kathy stuck together like glue.  I'm not sure if Marc was holding on to make sure that Kath wouldn't bolt to the surface, or if he just couldn't escape from her vise like grip of terror.  But from my perspective, Kath looked like she'd done this all a hundred times before.  We watched the sharks a while, drifting by the ravine.  I sat very still with my camera to entice them to swim close to the camera, and then we began the long ascent through the gorgeous fields of coral and clouds of brightly colored fish on our way back to the surface.  Here are a few photos taken from the video, but they can't really give the "sharks in all directions" perspective of actually being there.

The sharks of FakaravaKathleen swims with the sharks in Fakarava

    Near the surface we encountered a couple of Napoleon Wrasse,  which is a fat green fish that grows to 4 or more feet in length, but swims in the shallows like he didn't realize how big he was.  They're pretty rare as their size and swimming habits make them a tempting target for spear fishers.

    Back aboard Uliad that night, Kathleen reviewed the video tape and muttered, "It didn't seem that bad, but looking at this tape, I can't believe that I really did that!"   As if she never realized what an adventurous soul she really is. 

 

August 15:

   We moved anchorages to a secluded spot at the south end of Fakarava.  There are no charts for this part of the atoll, so to get here, one has to post a lookout on the bow and weave through the coral heads that dot the lagoon here.  The reward is some quiet, uninhabited islets with lovely sand beaches where we wandered all afternoon looking for seashells.  Out on the oceanside reef, we found wayward fishing floats, baby sharks in the shallows, and Emmett even found a message in a bottle washed up on the rocks. 

    Unfortunately, whoever wrote the message didn't realize that the ink from their pen would dissolve in the residual whisky from the bottle.  So after the initial excitement, all we could read was the word "Polynesia" on the paper....which leads us to think this bottle never travelled very far before washing up here anyway.

    Later we caught a big crab and turned him into a spread over crackers as this evening's appetizer.  We looked for a fresh coconut but the only ones that looked ripe to eat were 50 feet up in the air.  Despite our Robinson Crusoe island life here, we still can't climb coconut trees. 

Steve vs. the crab

 

August 16:

    The winds started howling here yesterday and are still building today.  The cause of all this is a high pressure system to the south, which reinforces the trade winds to the 25 to 30 knot zone they're at now.  Parked within the atoll, we can see the seas building to 10 feet or so on the other side of the reef.  But here we only have to deal with the 2 foot chop and the side to side movement of the boat as gusts hit us.  A few days ago we were talking about sailing to another atoll south of here just to see what was there, but in the end we decided to stay put.

    In the Tuamotus it seems better to stay in a place you like than to wander around looking for trouble.  Each transit through a reef pass is a challenge not to be taken lightly.  Compounding the challenge is the poor weather information down here.  The official forecast from the French Polynesia weather bureau was for a pleasant 10-15 knots today!

    On one hand, it's a spectacular sight:  the highest thing on the horizon to our south is the breakers crashing on the reef.  On the other hand, high winds are always troubling for the captain.  Will our anchor hold?  How much stronger will it get?  We are anchored in shallow waters studded with large coral heads.  Most are deeper than our keel, but occasionally there is one that rises menacingly near the surface.  The majority of anchorages we see have deep sand or mud for our anchor to securely bury itself in.  In the Tuamotus, there is rock and coral.  Sometimes patches of sand cover the rock, but most of the time when I dive down to look at our anchor here, I see the tip grinding into a large, jagged rock on the bottom.  Now large rocks are pretty secure, too.  Most of the time.  But  if the wind shifts or a chunk of rock breaks loose, we can find ourselves skidding along anxiously waiting for our anchor to catch another rock.  Or the anchor chain can get tangled in coral until enormous forces are exerted on the chain as the boat bounces up and down with each wave.  These are the sorts of issues that prevent the captain from resting well on a windy night.

    By this morning I was looking forward to getting out of this maze of coral heads that we had been anchored in and going back to deeper water.  We had planned to go back to the village at the north end of the atoll today so we could get some groceries and have wifi access to check email.  On the other hand, moving the boat through the coral heads in high winds is also a challenge.  The whitecaps on the water make it tricky to see what's under the surface and the boat gets blown around more in tight quarters.  But it looked do-able as the sun rose overhead so a bit before noon we lifted anchor and nervously motored back into deeper water.  Almost simultaneously, the wind picked up to a steady 30 knots and the sun drifted behind a cloud!  Now it was even more difficult to see.

    I slowly followed our incoming track on the chartplotter and we decided to re-anchor at a deeper anchorage further north.  We found slightly calmer waters there and dropped the hook in a comfortable 30 feet.  I put my fins and mask on to check our anchor set, only to find it caught on some old pipe that was for some reason jutting up out of the sand.  A moray eel poked his head out from a nearby rock, jaws agape and wondering what was this strange new neighbor.  But the pipe seemed really solid and there were plenty of rocks to catch the anchor if it did pull loose.  With 30 knots raging up above, re-setting the anchor seemed like more trouble than it was worth after the day I'd had.  But it will make for one more less-than-restful night for the captain tonight. 

 

August 18:

     One of the hardest lessons to learn out here is to not insist on your own schedule.  Sailing can be blissfully easy or terrifyingly difficult depending upon your willingness to wait for the right conditions.  I have learned this lesson many times.  So you would think by now that I wouldn't get restless and petulant when we wanted to leave Sunday but here it is TWO DAYS LATER and the winds and squalls keep blowing through still blowing strongly.  The temptation is to look out at the sky and say, "I think it's clearing up slightly"--just so we can keep to some artificial schedule.

     In the modern world, I'd barrel ahead through any sort of weather to keep to the plan.  That's what 4 wheel drive SUVs were made for, after all.  We'd cut short fine conversations or stay way to long through boring meetings simply because that's what we were programmed to do.  Follow the schedule.

     That programming must have been pretty strong.  Why else am I sitting here drumming my fingers?  But there was a reason why we went sailing and this was one of them - to have the opportunity to let each day unfold as it will.  I'm trying hard to remember that.  I'm trying hard to take pleasure in the fact that I can relax, read a good book, play a board game with Emmett, and wait for the storm to pass.  As for sailing to the nearest village and buying some fresh bread, that'll have to wait one more day.  As will you, dear reader, before I can get back to wi-fi access to post our latest blog.

 

August 23:

   After a short overnight motorsail, we arrived at dawn at the edge of another atoll named Apataki.  The pass got narrower and narrower as we entered, making for an exciting struggle against the 4 knot outflowing current for the last bit.  There are pearl farms everywhere here near the village, so we set off in search of a few more bargains in that department.  Unfortunately, it seems that everything was closed up on a Saturday here.  The Easterly winds were building so we decided we needed to move the boat to somewhere more sheltered before dark.  A British catamaran arrived from the other side of the atoll, and after talking with him, we decided to go to a small island where he had just left.

    On the eastern side of Apataki, we were met by a friendly Polynesian family that has just opened a boat yard here.   I had no sooner set foot on their dock when I felt like long lost family.  Within a couple of hours, everyone on the island knew me on a first name basis (OK, so I can count them all on my fingers, but still...)  and they had showed me everything but their bedrooms.  Emmett was especially enthralled by the family's pets:  2 dogs and a 4 foot long nurse shark who basks along the beach waiting for someone to feed it fish scraps!  I watched nervously as the family patriarch showed Emmett how to pet it on the head when it came in close.

Emmett pets a shark

    They have a freshly poured concrete ramp and a hydraulic trailer to haul out yachts up to 20 tons.  It was all quite clever how they've set this up in the middle of nowhere.  And believe me,  a boat yard is a good idea out here.  Yachts come through the Tuamotus with noplace to haul since Panama, some 4000 miles ago.  By now, lots of us are needing some bottom work done.  The downside, though is that everything here is about 10 feet above sea level.  It wouldn't take too big of a hurricane to destroy everything.  So after a bit of thought, we decided not to haul Uliad here. 

    But the family also runs a pearl farm, so soon the owner's wife, Pauline had spread a towel on the picnic table and pulled out a sack with a few hundred pearls and set Kathleen to shopping.  Compared to the more touristy farm on Fakarava where they had their pearls set out on little velvet cushions in an air conditioned room for shopping, this felt a whole lot closer to the nature from which black pearls come.  We probably didn't need more, but bought a few anyway. 

Kathleen checks out the black pearls on Apataki  The bounty of the South Seas

 

August 24:

 

      Just after entering the Apataki atoll, we anchored near a British catamaran named La Graciosa.  The owner, John, was aboard with his dog Harry after his wife had flown home for a few weeks to visit relatives.  The night after we parted ways, their anchor dragged in a squall and the boat ended up smashing into a coral reef.  John had a long night trying to set anchors alone in the dark to kedge himself off, then running his pumps while waiting until dawn when he could see well enough to try to get here. He finally limped into the boat yard here in the morning with the assistance of the yard's launch.  Bouncing on the reef had broken off both his rudders and one of his saildrives, so maneuvering his boat was difficult to say the least.

      The yard crew here sprang into action and then struggled all day to haul out their first catamaran, and their largest boat so far in the month they've been open.  After already experiencing what he described as "the worst night of my life", poor John looked exhausted as the tractor struggled to get traction.  Apparently the concrete ramp they poured was just a bit too short and the wheels of the trailer were stuck behind the lip of concrete.  Finally with much fiddling they got it up, but then the guy running the hydraulics pushed the wrong lever and the cat was almost tipped backwards off the trailer!  Our instinct was to feed John a nice dinner and a cold beer, but by the end of the day, he looked exhausted and decided that what he really needed was to go to bed.  We brought over breakfast instead. 

Reef damage on catamaran La Graciosa

      Surveying the smashed appendages of his bottom, I was reminded of just how quickly things can go bad around here...and just how little help there is if they do.  It was fortunate for John that the only haul out facilities within hundreds of miles had just opened on this very atoll.  Without it, he may very well have sunk.  And after spending a few days with the lovely family here, I admit that one small part of me is jealous that John and Harry will spend the next couple of months here making repairs.

 

August 26:

    We left our anchorage a bit before noon and timed the tide perfectly to slip out the narrow south pass of Apataki with hardly any current.  By dusk we were sailing gently downwind in the moonlight over a calm sea.  The passage to Tahiti was a picture perfect postcard of South Seas sailing:  gentle seas, warm winds, brilliant starry skies--now this is how it should be!  By midnight we had rounded the final atoll and had open water ahead for the next 200 miles.  We had officially left the Dangerous Archipelago and I left Kathleen with the watch and went below to sleep.  She must have been enjoying the pleasant night as well because she didn't wake me until near sunrise.

    I feel a bit reluctant to leave the Tuamotus.  They're incredibly beautiful, the waters are pristine, the people warm.  I'm sure Tahiti will be nice, too, but mostly it seems like the first step toward emerging from our little bubble back into the world of work, noise, traffic, hurry, and such.   I have more paperwork to fax relating to my upcoming job...repairs, maintenance and spare parts to sort out...and start planning a myriad of tasks to get Uliad "put away" for the season.

    The two day sail to Tahiti was a reminder to enjoy the moment--live in the present.  Perfect weather never lasts. 

 

August 29:

    When the first European explorers came to Tahiti in the 1700s, they found a thriving society of friendly people on Tahiti.  Polynesians were technologically still in the stone age technologically, and they were awestruck by the huge sailing ships filled with amazing items.  A brisk trade began with Polynesians stocking the ships with fresh fruits, vegetables, and pork for metal knives and tools.

     Now the Polynesians also were a very sexually liberal society, especially in comparison to Edwardian England from which Captain Cook and Captain Bligh sailed.  It was said that his sailors could trade a single copper nail for the favors of a young Polynesian girl--who was undoubtedly frolicking about topless in those days.  What a paradise THAT must have seemed for those lonely sailors!  Of course it wasn't long before Captain Bligh noticed with alarm that his sailors had began pulling nails out of the ship itself.  Much longer and the hull planks would start falling off.  So he understandably cancelled shore leave, hastily finished his mission and began to sail his ship Bounty back home.  It was only shortly after leaving when the infamous "Mutiny on the Bounty" occurred right here.

    Anyway, because of that early reputation, sailors ever since have found excuses to stop in Tahiti on their way to everywhere else.  As a result, Tahiti is now the industrial/commercial/shipping center of the whole South Pacific.  You can find everything here, albeit at a staggering price.  A copper nail just doesn't go as far as it used to.

    It doesn't look much like paradise now.  The roads are choked with noisy traffic, the markets are filled with hurried, pushy people, and here we are, gawking at all the rush-rush like slack-jawed yokels.  I find myself consciously remembering to walk faster and wipe that overwhelmed look off my face.

    Yesterday we all took the bus downtown to do some shopping in Papeete's huge open air market.  Within a few hours of arrival, Kathleen had her walled picked out of her purse in the crowd.  Then to make things worse, as we headed for a bus stop to go home, a car drove over her foot!  Kathleen stumbled back to the side of the road crying.  A French lady jumped out of her car and immediately apologized, saying that she had turned around to look at her kids in the back seat and hadn't noticed people in the crosswalk.  (Obviously from a less litigious culture than ours!!)  Emmett started crying in fear for his Mom.  Three French kids climbed out of the back: a wailing hungry toddler, a moaning developmentally delayed kid, and a bemused teen.  With crying and yelling now coming from all directions, I kneeled in the street and tried to focus on assessing my wife's injuries.  If this were TV, I would now shout "Calgon, take me away!" and be magically transported to a claw foot tub with flower petals floating in it.  But this isn't TV.

    We eventually hobble over to a nearby cafe and get some ice on Kathleen's foot.  The paramedics arrive.  By now it looks to me like Kathleen may have a cracked bone or two in her foot, but nothing requiring emergency attention.  We talk quickly and decide to decline a ride to the hospital.  (If it is broken, it needs to be splinted for a few days until the swelling goes down, then return for a cast...so why not just see a doctor in a few days and take car of it all at once?)

    The inattentive French lady orders her kids some food to quiet them down and calls her husband--a French naval captain.  He arrives in his sharp white uniform and offers to drive us home and his wife can look after the kids.  We agree but then the disabled kid is inexplicably placed in the car with us where he begins to yank at Emmett's bracelets and necklace while drooling on his shoulder.  Em is once again terrified and starts to cry quietly.

   So we finally get back to the marina where Kathleen is now finding she can hobble around ok if she keeps her weight on her heel.  We get to our dinghy where at least, I think, we don't have to worry about our dinghy being stolen since I locked it securely to the dock this morning.  Except that I brought the wrong key.  We all sat silently bobbing in the dinghy for a moment and I wondered how long I could extend this uncomfortable silence before having to share this bad news with my family.  They took it remarkably well, all things considered.  At least Emmett wouldn't be attacked by a babbling, drooling kid while we waited for some good Samaritan to come by.

    Soon an Australian bloke gave me a ride back to Uliad where I found the correct key and also brought a pair of bolt cutters just in case.  We made it back to Uliad feeling like the modern world had chewed us up and spit us out.  And I can't say for sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if later that night there was talk amongst the crew of mutiny and sailing the ship back away from Tahiti. 

 

 

 

                                                                       

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