We spent two weeks in Manihi. Usually, I would be chomping at the bit staying in one place that long, but I was feeling a little down. The day after we arrived in Manihi, I learned an old friend had passed away. This news gave me quite a shock. I know nothing is permanent, but I’m used to having him here. When Andrew would get stuck figuring out repairs or the combination for my safe, my friend would always know what to do. We had such fun together, years ago. I’m going to miss him.
Just like with my crew, Manihi cheered me up a little bit. The kids helped Leslie clean all the sea grime off my waterline and I look prettier than I have looked in months. Every day, kids would come and swim with me, doing backflips off my deck, climbing on my chain or otherwise paying attention to me. They all wanted tours. I rested, tied up safe and secure. I didn’t have to worry at all about my anchor chain being tangled up in coral or being blown onto any reef.
But, of course, I want to get more miles under my keel, too. So, after two weeks I was ready to head out to sea. My crew spent the last day receiving a boulangerie tour, drilling holes in sea urchins for future necklaces, and trying their hand at tuna fishing with Ferdinand. That night, the crew headed back to the soccer field for more of Estella’s chow mien, to listen to Lizzie and Mama Manihi sing in the Heiva talent competition, and to compete with Ferdinand in carnival games. Everyone knew we were leaving in the morning, so there were handstand challenges, last minute cookie shopping (guided by cookie experts), lots of hugs and goodbyes.
Andrew and Leslie said we had to leave by 9:00 a.m. to make it out of the pass on outbound tide. They set an alarm for 6:00 a.m. and got to work tidying my decks and preparing things down below. At 8:15 a.m., Ferdinand stopped by in his panga and showed us all a large tuna he caught. He insisted the crew pop by his house in a half hour to learn how to make manoi oil (coconut oil infused with manoi flowers - the island secret to beautiful skin and hair!) At 8:45 a.m. sharp, our friends June, Fatiaou, Lizzie, Manihi Mama and Sylvainn all arrived on the dock with giant manoi flower leis, sea shell leis, a captains hat woven from palm fronds, polished clam shells, and a manoi flower wreath for Kevin. They adorn my crew; hugs all around. Andrew starts my engine, and I think we are ready to go. Then, the crew decides to stop at Ferdinand’s to say goodbye.
“Uh, guys? We are going to be late!” I started to get a little nervous. Our Manihi family and I waited while Ferdinand shows everyone a giant tuna, teaches Andrew to split coconuts, and explains the process for making manoi oil, grates coconut and sends my crew on their way with all the ingredients necessary to make manoi oil when we reach Fakarava.
More hugs, tears from Mama Manihi, and finally, everyone is aboard. We release my ropes and I try to hold really still in the tiny marina while Andrew pulls up my anchor. A solid portion of the town is out at the marina watching Va’a races and/or saying goodbye. We don’t want to look like turkeys.
Andrew gets the anchor up smoothly, and we wave goodbye. We head out of the pass as another sailboat moves in. Ferdinand is standing on the quay where the Dory ties up, waving us closer. We try to move closer, but the current is taking us out pretty fast. Ferdinand, Juanita, and a pile of kids throw flowers to us in the water. The little kids run the length of the dock, waving. Manihi is a hard place to leave.
Soon, we are out to sea with the Manihi pass safely traversed. Although a gentleman does not sail to weather, Captain Andrew isn’t always a gentleman. The wind is just slightly off my nose at 20-25 knots, but the sea is fairly calm. We sail by a triple reefed main, jib and a hankie of genoa, and that balances my steering perfectly. It’s a good thing, too, because everyone feels a bit seasick; there is a price to pay for that perfectly still anchorage. We try to keep Kevin medicated, but he still barfed once. Pretty soon, Andrew is leaning over the rail offering his trademark silent, dainty puke to Neptune. Crystal holds it together, and Leslie was smart enough to take some Sturgeon before we left so she was fine. The night watch was lit by a full moon, accompanied by a pleasant and dry wind.
By the time Andrew’s early morning watch was over, we had Fakarava’s North Pass in sight. The pass is wide and easy, we are entering on the latter half of an incoming tide so we have no problem motoring straight in. I look around and see coral heads here and there, but Leslie is following the charted path carefully and Andrew is posted on the bow as lookout. This puts me at ease, and I relax as we motor through the calm lagoon. We see our old friends on Athanor and anchor next door. Fakarava is known to be one of the very best places in the world to scuba dive with sharks, and by the time my anchor is settled, friendly sharks are circling beneath my keel and remoras (fish that attach themselves to sharks by the top of their head) have attached themselves to my underbelly. It tickles, but I love all the company.
As soon as we get the anchor down and secure, my crew heads to shore. They rent bikes, compare prices on scuba diving, find internet and their favorite panini cafe on a beach overlooking the water. It warms my heart to see them enjoying all these new places; and I am happy all over again that we set out to sea.