Tag: Cruising

Ahhhh Apataki!

Yesterday was one of those absolutely perfect days. You know, the kind of day you never want to end? We woke up in the morning and did our normal coffee & computer thing. Then it was time for a few chores. Dan cleaned the dodger and putthe dink in the water while I stayed below doing some cleaning and writing. Around noon we decided it was time to get off the boat for a bit. We pulled out our snorkel gear, threw a few beers in a bag and hopped in the dink. Ed & Linda were in their dink too and we all headed to shore.

The water here in the south end of Apataki is just beautiful. We could see lots of colorful fish swimming around the bommies we dodged on the way to shore. We beached the dinks, put out some chairs, popped open our beers and sat there for hours just chatting and laughing. We were the only four people in the anchorage! As we sat there on our very own private beach we saw a couple of small black tip sharks swim within a few feet of us. It’s awesome to sit there and be able to see so clearly in the water. We snorkeled and played in the water and had an absolute ball.

At one point Ed started trying to goad Dan into climbing one of the many coconut palms to get us a fresh coconut. Fortunately Dan didn’t take the bait. He did, however, go back to the boat and get his machete. Back on the beach he starts looking for some low hanging fruit. He ends up harvesting a couple of these magnificent gems. He cut one open and we sat on the beach eating fresh coconut while enjoying our beer and great company. It was absolutely fabulous.

As we sat there beside the gin colored water on the white, coral sand beach beneath the swaying coconut palms, the sun and the deep blue sky we all agreed that this is exactly what we dreamed of when we dreamed of sailing French Polynesia. I mean really, how much better can it get? We have our private beach, clear water, beer and amazing friends. Yes, it is truly perfect!

The sun begins to get low in the sky and we have run out of beer and wine so we load up our dinks and head back to our floating homes. We shower and rinse down all the gear and I go below and make spaghetti. We are making the overnight passage to Rangiroa tomorrow and leftover spaghetti makes a perfect passage meal. After dinner we curl up together around the table and watch a movie. Oh yeah, it was a wonderful day!!!

This morning I wake up feeling a bit odd…yes more odd than normal. My bottom lip feels numb and swollen and I reach around to scratch by back and I feel lumps. Not wanting to panic I slowly climb out of the bunk and slide into the head. I barely make eye contact with Dan who is sitting around the table having coffee. I look in the mirror and see my bottom lip is swollen on the right side. I lift my shirt to look at my back and find huge welts all over my back and my bum. I turn around and see long, 5-6” welts across my stomach and groin area. My entire torso is covered with them. Okay, now I’m panicking!

I step out of the head, “Honey, there is something very wrong with me.” I say in a high, trembling voice. Dan immediately sits up and asks what’s wrong. “I’ve got welts all over and my lip is swollen.” I reply. I lift my shirt to show him. Ever the calm in the midst of the storm, he looks me over and tells me to take two Benadryl immediately. He never raises his voice or shows any sign of panic. Thank God because I’m doing enough of that for both of us. You see, I have anaphylactic allergies that have been known to close my airway. They are not fun and while I have Epi pens and Benadryl on board, the last thing I want to deal with when we’re 100+ miles from a hospital is an anaphylactic reaction.

I take the Benadryl and Dan re-inspects my body looking for signs of a bite or a cut. He finds nothing. Now he starts drilling me with questions. “Did you touch any live coral? Did you get stung by a jellyfish? What did you eat?” You know, all the things a doctor would ask. “No, No” and “Spaghetti, Coconut and some cheese.” I reply.

Dan tells me to sit down and stay calm. Sure, easy for him to say. He’s not feeling the need to scratch his body till it bleeds while wondering at what moment he’s going to be jabbed with a three inch needle in the thigh as he gasps for air. And then there’s the thought of what happens if the two Epi pens we have on board aren’t enough? Oh yeah, that’s right. He has that airway thing he will cram down my throat after I go unconscious. Sure, stay calm. Yeah that’s not going to happen.

I’m doing my best to follow Captain’s orders but I can’t stop scratching and I’m getting a little teary eyed at the thought of what could possibly be in my future. Dan tries to act like everything is fine but I see the look of concern in his eyes as he “nonchalantly” looks over at me every minute or so. That alone raises my panic level.

Fortunately after about twenty minutes I start to feel the effects of the Benadryl and I’m becoming quite loopy. Thank God the water is still and the boat isn’t rolling or I’d be like a pinball bouncing off of everything. Dan takes another gander at my body and decides the meds are working even though I’m certain my lip is getting fatter by the second. He suggests that I lay down for a bit and take a nap since I’m head bobbing at the table. With no energy to argue I go back to the bunk and within seconds I’m out like a light.

A couple of hours later Dan wakes me up to see how I’m doing. I’m groggy but he insists I get up so, you know, Captain’s orders. Once out of bed he checks me again. Almost all of the welts are gone and my lip is almost back to normal. Thank you Lord! I’m going to live!

We decide based on my still dopey condition that leaving for Rangiroa must wait another day. Not sure I’d be ready for night watch later. So, we let Ed & Linda know and we all agree to wait for tomorrow. Darn, we’ll have to spend another day in this amazingly beautiful spot.

By 1300 I’m feeling good enough to get out so we take a dinghy ride along the beach checking out the beautiful shore. The view and the fresh air wake me up and make me feel somewhat normal again. We stop back at SV One Fine Day for a couple sundowners before heading back to Dazzler where my sweet man makes me dinner. Yep! He’s a keeper!

I think we watched a movie tonight but I was so wiped out by the day I slept through most of it. Here’s hoping tomorrow and our trip to Rangiroa are less eventful than today. As Dan says though, “Even in paradise it can’t always be perfect.” so it’s anybody’s guess.

Until next time,

Jilly

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WE ARE GOING TO HIT THEM!

We enjoyed the few short days we got to spend in Fakarava immensely. But, as we keep saying…tick tock, tick tock…the visa clock keeps moving. So we as well as Ed & Linda of SV One Fine Day head out for Anse Amyot at the Toau atoll.

We had a wonderful day on the water. We got to sail for about three hours. The Pacific Ocean was unbelievably calm even though we had 15 knot winds. It was pretty awesome. Arrived at the anchorage here in Toau about 1230. The entrance was a piece of cake. Thank you lord!

We decided not to enter the lagoon rather to go to the Anse Amyot anchorage on the outside at the northern edge. It’s a small anchorage that can hold maybe ten boats and the water is crystal clear. We’re looking forward to some amazing snorkeling for a couple of days.

This place has the most beautiful water we’ve seen yet. We can see almost 200’ down coming through the pass! We are anchored in 25’ of water and can clearly see the fish below. Even saw a small black tip shark and a Trumpet fish swim by earlier. We may never leave this place! It’s hard to believe that these places get more beautiful as we go along but they do.

We awoke yesterday to find the weather not to our liking. It was rainy and cloudy and the winds started to pick up. We spentd most of the day below just hanging out but invited Ed & Linda over for dinner. I make my famous, Mexican Style Perauno Beans and Linda brings over her homemade bread pudding with caramel sauce. She made it with fresh French baguettes. Oh yeah….I’m drooling just thinking of it. Anyway, we all made the best of a pretty nasty day and decided that as much as we’d like to stay here and get in some great snorkeling, we need to leave the next day as the winds and weather are not going to be good for us here.

What a difference twelve hours can make…Time to put on our big kid pants!

First, to truly appreciate this story you need to understand a couple of things. One, Anse Amyot at Toau is a relatively small anchorage and there are eight of us anchored here so we are pretty close to each other. Two, as I keep saying, the biggest problem you face anchoring in the atolls is the dreaded coral heads they call bommies. Bommies stick up like pinnacles that you can easily hit if you don’t have someone looking off the bow to direct you around them. Honestly, you can be in 50+ feet of water and a coral head can be five feet below the surface. This is serious business. And, this also makes them a problem in that your anchor chain can easily get wrapped around them as your boat swings on the hook. Now, add to this the fact that for the past 24 hours we’ve had a 15-25 knot wind blowing across the shallow coral reef that separates us from the main lagoon. This is also bringing with it a very stiff current. On the south side of the atoll the swells are reaching upwards of three meters. This means that at the south end of Toau water is crashing over the atoll and filling the lagoon. We are at the north end of the lagoon so water is rushing through and coming over the shallow reef and right through the anchorage creating quite an unpredictable current.

Now that you have the background just try to imagine….

There’s nothing like being awakened at the butt crack of dawn to Dan telling me we are dragging anchor and about to hit Ed & Linda’s boat. It’s 4 a.m. and this massive current that came with the wind has made this anchorage like a rushing river. There are actually small whitecaps lapping on the side of Dazzler and upwellings that are acting like whirlpools. So, it’s dark out, I’m scrambling to find some clothes, get the electronics fired up and get our headsets ready. Dan is calmly yet sternly telling me to move faster because we are within 15 feet of hitting One Fine Day. He’s at the helm with the boat fired up just trying to keep us away. I come stumbling out of the cabin and into the cockpit to see their boat far, far too close. We put on our headsets and go figure, Dan’s is dead! What the? I had them on the charger yesterday. Apparently the plug got pulled out. Damn! This is not going to be fun! Looks like we’ll be doing this the old fashioned way. Holy hell! I think I could throw up!

Dan starts giving me my orders. Basically….keep us from hitting anyone. He heads to the bow to start pulling up the 80 feet of anchor chain. I’m at the helm with my stomach in knots as my head is spinning like a top trying to keep the other boats in sight without the benefit of my contact lens I need for distance.

The anchor lifts off the ocean floor and instantly Dazzler starts rushing backward. One Fine Day is getting larger in my rear view so I hit the throttle and start pushing forward. Dan comes back to the helm to get us into position so we can drop the hook and get her re-anchored.

Fortunately we were able to see the bottom here when we came in on Sunday so we know approximately where the bommies are located but it’s dark and there is still an element of the unknown. The fact is, however, we don’t dare try to get out of the anchorage at dark so we have no choice but to try to re-anchor.

Once in position Dan goes back to the bow and drops the hook. The current is so strong it pulls the anchor backwards underneath the boat but we’re in 28 feet of water so it still hits the bottom fairly quickly. Normally this is when I’d put her in reverse but not today. We’ve got 3.1 knots of current coming right on the nose so we immediately start backing down without the help of the engine. Dan let’s out more chain and within seconds she appears to grab and we start turning. Okay good, I can breathe now. Dan puts the snubber on and tells me to put it in reverse and back down a bit just to make sure we are set solid. I do and within a minute or two our speed over ground (SOG) is nearing two knots. I look back and we are getting closer to One Fine Day again and before I can look over my left shoulder Dan is in the cockpit because we are about to hit SV Kini Popo. Where the hell did they come from? My butt pucker factor goes from alert level orange to red in about a millisecond.

Dan pours on the throttle and we pull away. He tells me we have to try again. Holy crap Batman, I’m not awake enough for this type of stress!

Back at the helm Dan gets us into position again then he’s off to the bow. By this time Ed on One Fine Day has turned on all his nav and deck lights. He lets me know he’s on deck. Great…another set of eyes. I’ll take all the help I can get right now.

Top left…The day we arrived. Top right…the morning we left.

Dan drops the anchor and it seems to grab on. I start backing her down and as always I’ve got a sharp eye on the SOG. I want to see that thing hit zero. Of course with the current and the whirlpools were going to be moving a bit so we aren’t likely to see zero but we do get to .1 knots and she seems to be set. Okay, okay, I take a deep breath as Dan comes back and we watch to be sure we aren’t dragging.

It all seems good so Dan tells me to go back to bed and he’ll stand watch with the engine running. Seriously? Like there is any possible way I’m going back to bed now. My stomach is still in knots and I’m still feeling a bit nauseous. No, if he’s up, I’m up. So, I make a pot of coffee, pour a coke and sit below waiting for the sun to rise. Did I say we may never leave here? HA! I’m ready to get out of Dodge and soon!

I’m below writing this article when Dan says, “Were dragging again.” Oh come on! This is not how I want to start my day! I come topside and yep, the SOG starts going up and we’re headed backward toward One Fine Day. You’ve got to be kidding me! Here we go again. “Third time’s a charm.” Dan says as I go down to get the headsets that should now have enough charge to get us through this.

Yes, headsets are good. I always feel better when we have these on because they are so sensitive I can hear Dan breathe. I know I won’t miss an order this way.

The sun is coming up and there’s just a hint of light. There’s just enough light now to really see what’s happening in the water. We’ve got whitecaps and whirlpools. It’s exactly like a raging river.

Dan heads to the bow to pull the anchor. It’s hooked on a bommie but apparently not good enough or we would not keep sliding back. Fortunately he’s able to get the anchor up and this time he leaves me to get us in position. This takes every bit of concentration and boat driving skill I have as these upwellings that are acting like whirlpools are pushing us and trying to turn us sideways. Dan’s telling me to go a little more starboard and I already have the wheel hard over to starboard. The wind is whipping around us and we’ve still got close to three knots of current coming at us so the second that hook leaves the ground I’m hard on the throttle. It’s a delicate maneuver here. You have to have enough throttle to keep moving forward to get into position but with the current switching directions under the keel I have to be careful not to get pushed forward or sideways. There are two boats in front of us and I need to thread the needle to get between them. Nope, no pressure here at all. There’s just a 32,000 pound boat in my hands and if I do the wrong thing I could damage her or the other boats around her. That’s all! Pressure? What pressure?

The good news is the two boats ahead are on mooring balls so they aren’t swinging much. Dan is calmly telling me what to do and I’m following his every command to the letter. Meanwhile I’m saying a few prayers and talking to some guardian angels.

We get into position and he drops the hook for the third time. Please let this be the one! I back down and hold my breath. There it is, that wonderful swing of the boat that tells me she’s grabbed on hard. YESSS!

One eye on One Fine Day and one on the SOG….there it goes! .9 .8 .7 .4 .2 0! Still holding my breath I give her some more throttle to see if she holds. She vacillates between 0 and .5 but we don’t seem to be getting any closer to One Fine Day and with the current turning us the way it is, even though our SOG isn’t at 0, we feel confident were holding now.

Of course there’s no time to relax. We’ve still got an awning to take down and the dink needs to be put on the deck before we can leave. Dan’s on the radio with Ed and we decide that once we are both ready we are moving out. Ed can’t pull their anchor until we move so we get to work. It takes us about 45 minutes to get our boat ready to roll.

It’s a little after seven and for the fourth time since 0400 I’m back at the helm. Usually I would be the one to get us moving once the anchor is up but not here. I want no part of it so all I do is try to hold ground while Dan gets the anchor up and chalked. He comes back to the helm and I head to the bow to watch for bommies as he turns us around and heads for the entrance.

The pass is a bit choppy but nothing like we experienced in Fakarava so we motor through with Ed & Linda following behind. It turns out that their anchor chain was wrapped around a large bommie. This means they weren’t backing down as far as they should have so we may not have been sliding in the first place but in any event we were too close and we needed to move or risk hitting them. The last thing you want ever is to have your 32,000 pound boat go banging up against anything especially a friend’s boat!

We hit the open water and both of us take a deep breath and finally start to relax. Yes, the sphincter muscles unclench themselves dropping to alert level yellow and we finally breathe easy. We are Apataki bound.

Out here on the Pacific today there’s some pretty good size rollers. We’re seeing 3+ meter swells. Ed and Linda are beside us sailing about a half mile away and when they go into the trough of the wave we can only see their mast and sail. Good thing these are long rollers or this would be brutal.

But, we made it through another nautical challenge. Each time we are becoming better sailors and a more refined team. I can’t imagine anyone else but Dan that I would want as my love and my Captain out here.

Now, where is that bottle of vodka?

Until next time,

Jilly

Note: While our experience at Anse Amyot was certainly not ideal, it was a spectacular place and we hear the snorkeling is incredible. I wish we had done that the day we arrived. That said, we just hit a bad weather window here. If the wind is coming from the south and there are big swells outside you better be cautious. Those swells crash over he south end and fill the lagoon. The water has to go somewhere and over top of the shallow reef to the north is where it’s going. We aren’t the only ones who got blown out of there in those few days. We’d go back again, but only in the right conditions.