This is it. Living in the turquoise bubble. Anchored in a huge shallow lagoon, no other boats in sight.
Swimming, windsurfing, freediving, cooking our way through the supplies. Sharks and rays cruise by. Days slide by.
After a few days my brain clicks out of gear into neutral. This is it. The languor of the lagoon.
Some years we have lived in this bubble for months. This year we have hardly had a chance.
Escapade has been in challenging waters. Months of passage-making, then working through the maintenance program when we arrived in Tahiti. Sometimes running a boat can be like having a job. That to-do list. All part of the yin and yang of boat life. After 3 weeks in Tahiti it was time to fill a chariot with fine French goodies in the giant Carrefour, load up at the fruit stand and sail away again. Enough yin, let’s go and have some yang. Find our bubble.
Now we are living that life again, in the lagoon to the west of Huahine (Hoo-ah-hee-nay). But it doesn’t really matter where we are; it’s more a state of mind to slide into. It takes a while, an uninhabited horizon and a shallow-draft boat. Here is just bright turquoise, sunshine, shimmering life on the reef, passing clouds, showers, rainbows.
At night Escapade hovers above her moon-shadow on the glowing white sand below. There’s steady thunder of surf when the swell is high, and when it’s not, humming silence.
It takes a while to adjust. Let go.
Our dock-time in Tahiti was productive, everything ticked off the urgent list.
After all those miles we had a few things to fix, and Pape’ete is a good town for fixing boats.
Everything is there. The jib went off to Tahiti Sails for a new bolt rope (Although our mid-ocean repair would have been good for a few more thousand miles).
Christophe the composite specialist designed a new solution for the windlass. Now it’s seated on a massively reinforced panel with a heavy laminate above and below a foam core. As well as being a master of epoxy and carbon fibre, Christophe is also a keen sports fan, he is Belgian, with strong views on English athletes.
I’m no football fan but I do enjoy all the nationalist sporting banter that gets whipped up by the World Cup.
First he assured me that British cycling star Chris Froome was cheating. Not only with ‘le doping’ but he also has an electric motor hidden in his bike, which is how he was able to win the Tour de France. Then we moved on to England’s prospects in the World Cup. I left that to Dawn, whose knowledge of French and football is better than mine. We downed tools to celebrate with a Trappist beer when Belgium beat Brazil. The windlass installation was completed before the Belgians lost to France, so we didn’t have to deal with that, but I’m sure Christophe has a great explanation.
We added a further 30m of anchor chain to cope with some of the deep anchorages we have to deal with in the Pacific, so now the rode is 80m chain plus 50m of nylon. That should do it. Maybe I should carry a scuba tank too, in case I have to untangle it all.
Our trampolines were suffering from four years of wear, UV and salt. Dawn had brought replacements from France, but I was not relishing the task of rigging them, thinking that could be delayed until the next pitstop. It is a notoriously long, hard job, involving hundreds meters of line, hundreds of knots, tension to be exactly equal all around.
Then one night I put my foot through the old tramp.
Hired hands Benoit and Thomas came to the rescue, the new trampolines were expertly fitted in two days.
By chance those two days marked the start of the local wave-sailing season. I skived off to explore a couple of reef passes offering big blue walls and side-off wind, leaving Dawn to project manage on the boat. So good to be windsurfing on waves again. After a couple of trips over the reef on my back, my 4.7 and shorts were added to the repairs list.
I also found time for a couple of surf sessions on the local pass, a dinghy ride away. These waves are really out of my league when they are working properly. Steep drops, solid barrels with a hungry crew of locals and sailing-through surfers. But when the swell dropped and the crew was all surfed out, I found a few gems. Small ones.
The annual ‘Heiva’ festival was in full swing in Pape’ete, lots going on. Traditional Polynesian drumming, dancing, plus very serious outrigger canoe racing.
We never really reach the end of the to-do list, but all the critical stuff was done, so it was time to leave port. We also left Jemima on the dock. After four months and 5,000 miles on Escapade, she jumped ship and is off on a quick trip to New Zealand.
Our de-compression started in Moorea, just ten miles to the west of Tahiti. We tucked in to a lagoon there and got stuck for a few days as a ‘Mara’amu’ blew through. Strong SE winds, rain and big swell.
Once that had passed we left at dusk, timing our passage to arrive at Huahine in daylight, not before. We were aiming for a speed of 6 knots all night. The breeze was a warm and soft. We hoisted a fully reefed main and jib. Escapade took off at 9 knots!
We spent the night slowing her down. At daybreak I was cutting a corner, a mile outside the barrier reef. The huge Mara’amu swell was lifting the boat as the sets started to stand up, sweeping under us and exploding on to the reef with an impact I could feel in my chest. Close enough. We arrived at the pass and sailed through with the sun high enough to see the coral.
The lagoon close to the island is deep blue water, then the seabed rises rapidly to a huge plateau of white sand and turquoise shallows, beyond that is the reef and open ocean. We found a sandy spot with just enough water to float us and dropped the hook. We’ve been here ever since. Sliding into my daydream. Gone Troppo. I feel more aquatic every day.
Long swims across the shallows, studded with coral heads further out. When it’s really calm you can see it all just standing on the paddleboard, through a surface of glass, no snorkel needed.
We’re not leaving this bubble until we run out of pamplemousse.