Thursday, May 28, 2015

Our favorite swimming hole at our secret atoll

The calm after a violent low-pressure cell descended upon us

Family selfie

Paddling with Dad

The captain of the dinghy

Beach pose

Kayak perfection

Beauty and the Beast

Well, toddler cruising has begun in full effect and it's teeming with new adventures and challenges to say the least.
After a long winter bouncing between Maui and Lanai to dodge all the Kona storms, Namaste filled her sails to head south. Chris, along with his former firstmate Chris Cotter and his son Arii departed Maui on March 20. The 15-day passage was mostly uneventful. They had decent wind, small swells and spent almost the entire trip close reaching on a port tack. The sea withheld all its bounty until the final week when they snagged an ono and yellowfin tuna.
Isabel and I arrived to Fakarava in the Tuamotu island chain on April 16. After navigating across the lagoon and anchoring near the south pass, we've been living the good life everyday.
The entire Team Namaste has been diving throughout the past two weeks. The first few days of diving were unusual, with only 60 or so sharks circling in the pass. This may seem like a lot, but we are used to seeing 300! This past week, however, the sharks returned. Nobody knows where they went, perhaps spooked by a larger shark, but on Tuesday we dove with around 200, which is such a sight to see. I've dove this pass, Tumakohua, over 50 times and the experience is never boring. Drifting with an incoming current into multiple groups of 50-plus gray sharks is always exciting and thrilling. Schools of big eyes skirt the lower depths as giant Napolean wrasses stare at you curiously as they glide their massive bodies through the water. White tip sharks sit lazily on the bottom, waiting until you could almost touch them before scurrying off to another sandy patch. Giant barracudas shimmer in the crystal clear aquamarine water, unable to hide their spiky teeth which jut out from their mouths. It is an underwater extravaganza, teeming with sealife and pristine coral formations. 
We spent a few days cleaning up two different small motus, burning up the miscellaneous plastic (ughhhhh) flotsom and jettsom that finds it's way to the shores, along with palm fronds and old coconuts. The beaches at thess motus are constantly changing with the storms and tides. The sand merely shifts around and is redeposited to make some smaller and some larger than when we were here two years ago. We've built a perfect spot for bonfires on the motu we call Kite Beach, so named because it is our launching pad for kitesurfing. Chris has been fortunate to get out on a few light-wind days, but the conditions have not been steady enough for a beginner like me. I'm looking forward to taking the next step in the sport after a few lessons in Maui, and when I say looking forward to - I really mean "scared out of my mind."
Cruising with Isabel is an amazing experience - so much good, and just a little bit frustrating! She loves sitting on the paddleboard while we cruise around the motus, as long as we take plenty of swimming and running breaks. Her energy is endless, and I'm quite sure my husband has finally met his match in that department. She enjoys drift swimming, a new toddler sport, perfect for her beginner kicks. She is diligently testing her limits, and an absolute little spitfire. But she is a quick learner and rarely makes the same mistake twice, unless she wants to! She continues to name all the blacktip sharks that circle the boat on a regular basis.
She is constantly learning about tools and how her dad is a "hard worker" and knows "how to fix lots of stuff." Her French alphabet is hilarious to hear and she's winning over everyone she meets with her spectacular repertoire of nursery rhymes, sung at high speed with a high voice.
Chris Cotter and Arii left on Wednesday for a short hiatus in Tahiti, where Arii will reconnect with his relatives. It was quite an adventure for Arii, who is now officially a shellback after crossing the equator on a route very similar to his Polynesian ancestors.
Despite the lack of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, the crew is dining quite well on locally grabbed coconut crabs and fish, thanks to the spearfishing prowess of both Arii and Catt. Our plates have been full of panko-macadamia nut crusted marbled grouper, poisson cru with parrotfish and coconut milk, and fish packets cooked in the firepit with bigeye emperor, rice and cabbage, even though Isabel threw sand on those! Stinkpot for sure!