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The Tuamotu Diaries: Chapter 6 - Boat Life


sailboat at anchorage
photo @joshmunoz

4/11/23

I miss talking to my family. I think their brains would explode if they saw this place.


Yesterday was the first time I actually felt truly cold. From the moment we woke up the sky alternated between a grey haze and curtains of water.


The boat acted a bit like an igloo with all the hatches tightly closed. It was a dark dome with one rectangular opening to the outside world. We could hear the outside weather scratching at the side of our fortress begging to be let in.


Inside the boat heat from the stovetop made the air cozy as Joshua prepared French toast from the last of our premade bread. From now on we will have to make our own if we want a vessel to transfer butter to our mouths. I’ll probably prep a loaf after finishing this entry.


My night before was restless and uncomfortable so I settled into a nice food coma after breakfast. Seems almost everyone decided to follow suit as they chatted about their slumber as I woke from mine. My right ass cheek was on fire. Light shown through a small port hole in the coffin and seemed to compound like using a magnifying glass to burn ants on a side walk. My skin seared. The sun was out.


We all scrambled around the cabin grabbing cameras and on deck slipping into wetsuits and snorkel gear.


Josh and I wanted to try to shoot some of the blacktips that have chosen Agape as home base in the clear blue water. Rachel helped me to trim some of the unwanted parts off a slab of tuna in the fridge. We pulled the dingy just away from the boat and started trying to attract the sharks to slightly shallower water.

blacktip reef shark over sand

The sun disappeared. It lasted all of fifteen minutes.


It wouldn’t have mattered much anyway. These sharks, used to a human-less ocean, were spooked by any attempt at bringing the camera closer. They were really only excited by the tuna for a total of three minutes before heading back to their mother ship. There were a few times they did swim up to bump the little yellow float attached to the anchor line. I guess yum yum yellow is universal.


I convinced Josh to stay in the water with me to look for sea shells in the shallows. We started off in the same direction but I quickly got distracted by something away from him. Likely I saw what I considered a better baumy than the one he chose to search. When I apologized later on for ditching him he said it was fine and he probably would’ve left me anyway. I guess I move too slow.


He must’ve swam back to the boat at some point because some hour or so later the whole crew drove up on the dingy. I pretended like I didn’t see them coming so I could have just thirty more seconds to search. Reluctantly, I got in the dingy and we headed farther into the lagoon to check the deeper baumys for fish.


The ride on the dingy was cold. It was the first time I had really shivered this whole trip. As the air flew past my wet attire heat whicked away. My wetsuit barely kept my upper body from raising goose bumps but my wet sun pants seemed to be sucking any and all heat away. I closed my eyes and took deep breathes in and out through my nose. I took a yoga class one time and the instructor told me I could heat my body with my breath and mind. I’ve tried this technique a few times since then. I’ll update you if it ever works. Occasionally, between breaths I would feel small pellets poke me across the face.


We pulled up to the baumy and honestly I was ecstatic to get in. The water had to feel at least ten times warmer than the air. At least when you first hop in. The only thing I would’ve liked more was to be dry.


We went to two baumys. Not much larger fish activity. I had the opportunity to shoot an uku. Something was weird with the safety on the gun and I missed. Probably for the best. It was a little too big to eat without worry of cig.


Rachel found a super tiny nudibranch and I found a pipefish clinging to the coral.


We made the cold journey back to the boat. I think all of us were dreaming deeply about the hot showers that didn’t exist for us.


We all rinsed and dried off before hurrying back into the comfort of the cabin. I even put the sweatshirt and sweatpants that I brought to use. At first I covered my toes in socks after they had been chilled by the non-stop ocean time for the last five hours.


It seemed like it had been a full day but we returned home at around 3pm. We had dived through lunch so we opted for an early dinner. Rachel got to work on what would become a delicious pad thai.


We rounded out dinner and went on deck to enjoy a nice sunset. It wasn’t the most spectacular I’ve ever seen but after two evenings of just grey it might as well have been the Monalisa.


Josh flew the drone, Rachel and I worked with tiny tools to clean our shells to perfection, and Joshua hand fed us snickerdoodles he had made the night before.


I was the last to leave the deck. Too focused on my cleaning task to stop. One of my shells accidentally housed a hermit crab. It must’ve curled itself deep inside because I could’ve sworn it was empty. It stunk. When I picked it up to clean it thinking the smell was from another source I tilted the shell and goopy, orange juice dripped down my fingers and onto my pants. The liquefied crab guts left a putrid spot just above the ankle. I finished cleaning my collection as there was no more light for me to see my work.


We played a few rounds of hand and foot. First to a hundred thousand points gets a meal of their choosing cooked by the ultimate loser. Whoever wins better hope my skills improve because right now I’m in position to be chef.


After we finished games, Josh and I watched a bit of a movie before moving to our respective beds. It’s way too hot in the coffin with two people so he’s been sleeping on the bench in the cabin. It’s cooler than the coffin so he prefers it. Can’t say I’m the biggest fan of the sleeping arrangement but we would melt into one blob like gummy bears in a hot bag if we slept together.


4/12/23

Starting today’s entry later in the day. I normally prefer to write in the morning after having slept and with a fresh brain to recount the day before.


It was so nice out when I first got up that I decided to work on cleaning more of my shells before the sun got to high. I sat up on deck carefully picking away at spots of Calcium stubbornly clinging to my shiniest shells.


Rachel and I have both amassed quite the collection. Yesterday morning we spent five hours cruising through the shallow baumys searching for treasures while the boys went to the middle of the lagoon for their own search. They came home with one large uku and we each came home with a bag of goodies a child would be envious of trick or treating on Halloween.


We unloaded our hauls to reveal spirals, spheres, and cones in various shades of brown, orange, red, and yellow. Some striped or banded and others with spots and leopard prints.


I don’t think any of us intended for our adventures to have lasted so long but it’s easy to get caught up in the magic of the ocean here.


It’s likely we were all a bit exhausted and dehydrated so we took a moment to replenish and rest.


After cleaning up my shells this morning Joshua and Rachel taught me the art of bucket laundry. Turns out it’s a great multitask. Half house chore, half workout. As I plunged vigorously my burning triceps cried for rest. Defeat started to set in when I remembered I was also responsible for the rinse cycle. I managed to get about 80% of Josh and I’s clothes cleaned. The rest I’ll do tomorrow…. maybe.


There isn’t much to clean. Mostly underwear. We’ve been rewearing any of our salt free clothes until we can’t stand the stink any longer. Because of our laundry method you try to prolong the life of each shirt as much as you can. The key to clothing on the boat is don’t wear a lot and what you do wear, wear often.


Majority of the time we stick to bikinis and board shorts. Honestly, it’s been so hot I think we all prefer to be half naked anyway.


Nothing salty is allowed back into the cabin. Everything we’ve worn in the water had to get a thorough rinse before coming inside so the things we dive in everyday stay hanging outside. Salt attracts moisture. Once things get salty in the cabin it becomes impossible to keep things dry. Even us humans require a rinse each time we want to go inside.


The rest of the crew started to get ready for the mornings adventure while I finished rinsing the clothes. Originally, I wanted to sit out for the first few hours. The thought of finishing our chores and writing sounded nice. Plus, some alone time wouldn’t hurt. There’s certainly not much of it on the boat.


Rachel convinced me to go shelling again with her. My reluctance gave way when she said this is some of the best she’s seen.


At first I regretted my decision to join. Especially since we got dropped off way too far for me to abandon our quest early. However, upon finding my first keeper I was over my bad mood.


I think the fish somehow like to participate in the hunt. Almost like they are cheering us on. The small fish and wrasse cautiously follow as you circle each baumy, picking at the sand shaken from each addition to the collection. The larger fish are wearier. They choose to watch from the safety of crevices in the reef. Every once in a while, you’d look into a dark hole and see two eyes glowing back at you. It’s interesting the larger fish seemed more afraid than the smaller ones. I wonder if I’m closer in size to their predators.


Some of the creatures on the reef have more distinct personalities. Groupers guard their baumys boldly until they inevitably lost the game of chicken at the last second. Cleaner wrasse swim lengths away from protection for a quick nibble at my wide. Today a large… no giant, moray eel gave me a small heart attack. After sticking my head into a hole a huge greenish, brown fire hose chased my movement backwards. He displayed the white of his mouth until I gave him enough distance.

calm ocean water

The ocean couldn’t be more beautiful today if it tried. The surface of the water is a perfect mirror reflecting back a wiggly version of the clouds above. The horizon doesn’t even exist in the distance. As we snorkeled the shallows iridescent rainbows danced in irregular grids along the sand. If you stare at them too long they work as a form of hypnosis.

sharks in calm water

With conditions like these we hope for a sunset even better than last night’s. Josh, Rachel, and I spent sunset on the motu. They flew their drones as I took a long walk around the little island’s perimeter picking up plastic blown ashore. On the backside of the motu I met a small boobie, many rock crabs, and found a natural swimming pool. The water looked a deep teal under the decreasing angle of the sun.


As I rounded the final corner of my walk I looked up to see Agape lit golden by the setting sun. Palm trees anchored the beach to my left as pinkish-white sand extended rightward into an oblong corner rounded by lapping waves. In the center our pirate ship gleamed. Its’ one side in silhouette, the other radiating with the orange of the sky. The shallow water she floated on melted from a yellow at the horizon into a gradient melting the turquoise onshore.


The sky was the darkest it has been this whole trip last night. A clear, dark sky revealed billions of tiny sparkles. The milky way was shining overhead. We listened to music and watched the stars.

sailing over calm ocean

We are moving spots right now and will anchor near a pass a few miles away. As we motor across the lagoon it feels more like flying than boating. We are floating on the sky. Agape pushes through a seamless sea creating a V of white ripples in her trail. Her bow cutting through the sky, slicing the clouds in half. In the distance, you can’t tell where the ocean ends and the air begins. Each one melts into the other with no distinguishing line between the two. We glide effortlessly across the surface that is flat as cement carefully peering through the mirror in an attempt to spot the baumys hiding on the other side of the portal. We will be at anchor in an hour or so.

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