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The Tuamotu Diaries: Chapter 11 - Return to Civilization

Updated: Jul 2

Tahitian woman


After a long night on passage everyone was tired yesterday. However, chores needed to be done so we could relax later in the evening.

It was around mid-day when we pulled into the anchorage. Almost immediately we noticed the shift in temperature. The constant flow of air we had enjoyed while sailing was gone. Only a slight breeze, basically just a whisper of air, made it through the trees on shore.

This is the tradeoff you make to enjoy a calm anchorage. I think I’ve forgotten what it feels like to not be sticky. For a brief moment after rinsing off you’ll feel like a brand-new person. A few seconds later you’re already sweating again.

I made smoothies with the last of the bananas we had frozen and sorted away. We left Tahiti with a full regime of bananas. They lasted us almost a full three weeks. Most were used for smoothies. They offered a quick relief from the heat. Normally drinking one too fast would leave me with shivers, lowering my internal body temperature. Here, the brief moment of cooling from within was just the sort of thing you looked forward to in the morning.

Bananas were also used for pancakes and banana bread. Finding out yesterday there were no ripe regimes available made me long for these treats.

Rachel and Joshua normally have a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. I’m normally awake first and will watch Joshua stumble out of bed, prepare the hot water kettle, and then make his way back to bed for a few extra minutes of sleep. I’m not sure how they bear to drink something so warm in this climate.

I don’t drink caffeine. I never have. As a kid, I hated carbonation (still do) so I never enjoyed soda. Once I got to college and started seeing my friends have withdrawals from a lack of their morning cup I was turned off. Plus, I think it tastes like mud. Kind of looks like it too.

But I love the smell of coffee. It reminds me of my Nindy. He passed a few months ago. That man drank more coffee than anyone I’ve ever met. He was maybe only rivaled by my best friend in college, Paige. Nindy had the coffee pot on 24hrs of the day. Nana and Nindy’s house always smelled like coffee. I think he was drinking something like nine cups a day. When his doctor told him he had to stop I’m pretty sure he bargained with the doc and eventually was granted two cups a day. I would probably like the smell of coffee either way, but the memories attached to it make it that much sweeter.

fakarava coastline

Looking to shore from the boat you see the following going left to right: trees, and old light house that vaguely resembles a Mayan pyramid, more trees, a little pink building with an old dock stained white by bird poop (this is where we later went to get rejected looking for bananas), more trees, the gas station, a small grocery, the dingy dock housing a few anchored boats and a few on trailers just behind, a little orange restaurant, and the rest of the shoreline is peppered with small houses and beach parks.

This atoll is home to approximately eight hundred people. There is a small village, a handful of dive shops, and a couple tiny pensions or dive resorts. It’s a hustling, bustling city compared to our last stop.

Something Josh and I noted is that a lot of the cars we see driving down the one lane, sometimes sand sometimes cement road are nice, almost brand new trucks. Rachel explained that the people who choose to live on the outer islands often receive some form of compensation. I guess they will end up with really low mileage when they resell them because there’s only around twentyish miles of road on the island.

After our smoothies, we started running errands. Took the dingy to get gas. Gas station closed. Went to get bananas. Nothing ripe. We stopped at two markets to collect as much fresh produce as we could. Most of the veggies looked a little sad but we managed to gather a few things of lettuce, some limes, cucumbers, carrots, two baguettes (one was eaten before even making it on the boat), and some butter and beer. Josh jokes that at least we have the three B’s of sailing; butter, bread, and beer. Him and our friend Sava, who he’s crossed oceans with, say that’s all you really need for a happy sail.

Later in the afternoon we went to yacht services to pick up a few things friends had left for Joshua and Rachel and to drop off some laundry. Given the strenuous act that is bucket laundry we opted to pay for yacht services to wash the larger items like towels and bed sheets in their actual machines.

Walking to yacht services I was expecting a proper building with a front office or something. Instead we approached a small wooden house with some shacks around the side and a few worn couches and plastic lawn chairs on the patio. A few other cruisers were sitting outside waiting for the attendants to return from their airport pickup run. Taped to the sliding door and windows were flyers for various dive shops, an article on floating your anchor chain, something talking about birds, and a few signs stating the various offerings at yacht services. You could do laundry, buy a drink, purchase wifi, rent a bike, e-bike or scooter, and ship out/receive items to and from Tahiti. Next to the couch, colored salmon from the sun bleaching the red cover for who knows how long, was a leave one take one book library. All the books and most everything taped to the glass was in French so I had to use my limited French vocabulary and context clues to make out the idea of what they said.

It was taking too long for anyone to return so we left our laundry and went back to meet Joshua, who was waiting with the dingy.

nurse shark

While we were gone, he had made friends with a sweet Dalmatian whose owner was nowhere to be seen. A few nurse sharks had gathered by him after a fisherman dumped his scraps. The land puppy watched as I did my best to attract the sea puppies. The sharks were quite large. All were probably between four and six feet, rounded bellies most likely from the daily fisherman dump. Unafraid of us they circled around our legs in only a few feet of water. Sometimes they cruised into only knee deep water, under the hanging pine tree branches only an inch or so from touching the water. The scene honestly looked and felt like a moment from a fairytale.

I reluctantly joined the crew waiting for me in the dingy and we drove back to the boat.

There wasn’t much of a sunset but with the light finally blocked we were able to sit on deck and not immediately turn into puddles. We relaxed, enjoying the breeze and listening to music.

All of us not having much energy to cook, Joshua prepared a charcuterie board and we snacked for dinner.

Somehow, I managed to win a game of Scrabble. Probably only because Rachel was tired. Normally I’m quite bad at that game.

Everyone said goodnight and we all went to sleep early.


The light pitter patter of raindrops woke me up yesterday morning. The hatches were all closed and looked like ink blot tests from the resting water that collected on the glass. Even with the rain the sky wasn’t dark. The sun was shining brightly behind the grey blanket of clouds.

I prepped a loaf of bread to rise in the coffin until lunch. Ironically the coffin is the most hot and humid so it’s the best for rising dough. Sounds like a great place to sleep huh?

The morning was a bit lazy for everyone except Josh. He got dropped off on land and went for a run. I wrote and watched a movie.

Joshua and Rachel had a call just before lunchtime so we wanted to stick around the spot we are anchored. There is a small amount of wifi and service here. Everyone has really been enjoying it which I find a bit annoying since I wanted to stay more disconnected.

I milked the coconut shavings from the other day to have fresh coconut milk for the poisson cru I was planning to make everyone for lunch.

Turning on the oven mid-day to bake bread was a mistake. Even with grey skies the heat in the kitchen was crazy. Between chopping veggies, I would have to step away and wipe the sweat from my forehead with my shirt.

I didn’t start preparing the food early enough. Joshua and Rachel had to jump on their call before things were finished. Unable to resist their hunger we all broke into the food before they finished.

After lunch, I’m not sure why it took so long to get moving and do something. Everyone seemed to get busy with something and nothing all at once.

Eventually we got moving and Josh dropped us off on land. I was starting to go stir crazy in the boat. I had to go up on deck at one point because I was feeling so claustrophobic. I wanted to feel the real breeze, not just fans pushing around stale air. The deck wasn’t very peaceful though. The loud bussing of the generator working to charge the batteries and run the water maker was a disturbance to the otherwise, nice ambiance.

When we reached the beach, we were greeted by a scene straight out of Moana. Two aunties waded, waist deep, in the waters just off the sand. Each hardly wearing clothes. One had tiny blue booty shorts and a black bikini top, one tit hanging out. The other was topless, a floral printed pareo draped over her front side, and wearing a leopard print thong. These ladies had style. They were likely in their sixties and were not in the slightest bit embarrassed by their appearance. I hope to emulate some of that confidence in my own life.

I have a theory that in Polynesian culture that when a moan reaches auntie status she earns the right to be as crazy or do whatever as she wants.

The two women were fishing for tiny goat fish swirling around at their feet. They were being circled and caressed by about six large nurse sharks. It almost looked as if the aunties were dancing with the sharks. As they would get too close the aunties would giggle and gently push them away.

I walked over and asked if I could try helping them catch fish. One aunty spoke good English and she ushered me over to join them.

woman fishing in shallows

I was handed a piece of a stick, maybe five inches long, wrapped in neon yellow fishing line. One end of the line had two small weights that might’ve been Tahitian pearls and a hook with a small piece of fish attached. They told me they are only fishing for fun.

While I attempted to catch a fish, they teased me that I couldn’t leave till I caught one. They cracked jokes with us and each other. Each one giggling like they were still school girl age.

I didn’t tell them but I didn’t really care about catching the small fish. I just wanted an excuse to be close to the circling sharks. They were being quite polite. They didn’t really bump into us much or try to nibble at our toes. They moved around us like underwater sloths. Slowly and moving with dramatic swishes of the tail that were in real life slow motion.

Both the aunties and I gave up on fishing. They waddled back across the street, followed by a few collarless, scrappy dogs. Rachel, Josh, and I made our way down the street.

After dropping off a box at yacht services we walked to the ocean side of the island for a stroll along the beach. It wasn’t much of a beach. More like a strip of rock and rubble adjacent to the waves and barrier reef. Around twenty yards of tide pool and shallow reef separated us from the open ocean. We walked along, enjoying the onshore breeze and picking up nearly microscopic scallop shells in pink and yellow, deep purple urchin spines, and shiny orange cowries from the sand.

walking on the beach

We passed some locals and their three dogs that were hanging out on the beach. One of them was the Dalmatian from the day before. His name is Bingo. He must’ve remembered us because we had to shoo him back to his owner after he tried following us down the beach. We finished up our walk and made our way back to the boat to get ready for dinner.

Dinner was at the restaurant just near the anchorage. The food was good. We ordered steaks and mahi mahi with normal and sweet potato fries. Crème Brule for dessert outshined our dinners.

A walk to stretch out our legs and stomachs after dinner led us down the town street. I remarked at how there were more street lights on this stretch of road than in all of Moorea. That seemed odd to me.

We went back to the boat and got ready to go to sleep.

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