Friday, August 14, 2015

Anchored in the middle of the ocean

There are a few places in the Pacific where there is a coral reef just under the surface. It is good to know where these are so you don't hit them, and good to know where they are in case they are an incredible destination such as Beveridge Reef.

It feels very strange to be anchored in 10 feet of water almost 200 miles from the nearest land. The water on the inside of the reef is very calm even though the ocean waves are crashing on the reef just a short distance away.

No land here means no silt, no dirt, nothing in the water. That leaves us with the clearest water we have ever seen. No land here also means that water is continually coming in over the reef so the water doesn't warm up even though it is shallow. Even though the water temperature is 20° C (that's 72° F) we put on our wetsuits to go snorkeling!

It is 25 feet deep off the back of the boat and we can easily see the details on the sandy bottom, some little fish and sea cucumbers. The water is clear and light blue like swimming pool water. We took Tubby to the inside edge of the reef to snorkel along the coral shelf.

The coral is stunning and the fish are numerous, diverse and huge. Three good size white-tip sharks emerge from behind the hulk of an old wreck. Another is sleeping just under a shelf, Dina didn't even notice him while she was looking at a 3' long turqouise coloured fish!

The visibility is hard to describe. Some people say you can see over 100 feet under the water. Sitting in the cockpit, the boat barely rocking, seeing and hearing the crash of the surf on the reef... The whole experience was surreal considering we were literally in the middle of the ocean.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Last stop in French Polynesia

Heading west from French Polynesia there is one last stop. With nothing around it for over 100 nm, Mopelia is the remotest place we have visited so far. It is a beautiful circular atoll made up of coral reefs and sandy motus with a lovely lagoon in the centre. About 30 people, including a few families, live on the atoll and process coconuts for the copra market (the basis of coconut oil). 

The entrance pass to Mopelia is "interesting". It is not very wide, not very wide indeed. Once you get into the pass you can see the shallow coral ledges just a boat width away on either side. To make it really interesting, there is a constant ebb (out flowing) tide that varies in intensity. It only took us about 2 minutes to motor through the pass. That is a long time to be holding your breath and gritting your teeth.

We stayed in Mopelia for 12 days, ostensibly waiting for a good weather window for the 800 mile passage to Beveridge Reef and on to Tonga. It was a great 12 days spent relaxing, exploring the atoll and getting to know interesting locals and other cruisers.

How do you spend 12 days on a remote island?

Go fishing with some locals: Dina went out fishing a couple of times. She got to wade into the water with one end of a net while they circled the fish. She also received a lesson in how to clean the fish and got to practice on all 18 they caught.

Have fish dinner with some locals: We brought some food ashore to go with the fish that Dina helped catch. The fish is fried, grilled or prepared raw as poisson cru.

Have a pot luck with some locals: The crews from several yachts hosted a pot luck for the locals as a way of thanking them for their hospitality.

Go exploring at night to see coconut crabs: These crabs resemble fat spiders the size of small dogs more than marine crabs - google an image!l.

Have sundowners on the beach with an international set of cruisers: Not many cruisers stop at Mopelia, but those that do enjoy a United Nations of beach bonfires. We enjoyed the company of honourable representatives from Sweden, Switzerland, France, Australia and the USA.

Go for a walk to see the waves crashing on the reef: It is beautiful and calm on the inside, but the surf is constantly pounding the outside of the reef.

Visit the local family who have a garden: They were happy to share bananas, papayas, beans, tomatoes, coconuts and even tern eggs and beautiful shell necklaces.

Make some meals ahead of time in preparation for the passage: Curry Chicken with Green Papaya on rice, Seared Tuna medallions, Fried Tuna, Steamed Lobster Tails (provided by locals cooked on Free Spirit), Coconut Candy (opps, too much cinnamon).

Use those tern eggs: The tern eggs worked well for two quiches, which are in the freezer. The tern eggs also worked for a couple of omelettes for lunch. Hmmmm....terns eat fish and their eggs taste quite fishy. We'll have to see how the quiche turns out.

Make some bread: Why did we have yeast on board that expired 10 years ago? Why did we try to use it? Try again with yeast that expired only one year ago, and use coconut water (fresh!!) instead of water and sugar. This "coconut bread" turned out okay.

After 12 days: Say good bye, squeeze out the narrow pass and head west.