Friday, June 17, 2011

Tahanea and Zombie Hand (part 2)

We timed our afternoon departure from Makemo so that we'd arrive at Tahanea for the early morning slack current period. We were a little early so we had to heave to outside the pass for about an hour and wait for the sun to come up. The middle pass turned out to be much mellower than the pass at Makemo and our entry into the lagoon was uneventful. We anchored just north of the middle pass at around 8am and, to our surprise, there were 8 or 10 boats already anchored in that area. We expected to see a few boats but not quite that many. Among them were several boats we knew and were happy to see and Shalimar entered the pass right behind us and anchored nearby.

During our first evening at Tahanea we attended a beach barbeque pot luck sort of deal that the boats already there had organized. We already knew the crews of Blue Moon and Ceilydh (or however you spell the name of their boat - not that we're ones to talk when it comes to difficult to spell boat names) and we got to meet a bunch of new people as well. Unfortunately, we also got to meet the biting sand flies known as no nos. They come out around sunset and annoy the heck out of people for an hour or so but we stuck it out until they went back from whence they came. Food was eaten, guitars were played, drinks were drunk and so were people (a little bit). You had to be careful walking around because there were hundreds of hermit crabs crawling around and we didn't want to smash the poor little critters. They were slow moving but quite persistent. We tried to cover all the leftover food and we kept moving it around to try and keep it from the crabs but, eventually, we stopped paying attention for long enough and they swarmed the left over brownies. They busted through the tin foil and by the time we noticed, the pan was covered by a pile of several hundred sugar crazed hermit crabs.

The wind kept on blowing in the 15 to 18 knot range for a day or so after we got there but then it backed off. By the 16th it was dead calm. That would have sucked if were were trying to sail someplace but it was fantastic for being anchored. At one point, the surface of the water was so mirror flat that you could see the anchor and details of the coral heads 40 feet below the boat and the horizon took on that weird hazy look that the ocean gets on calm days where you can't really tell the ocean from the sky. We spent our days snorkeling and swimming around. We snorkeled the north pass several times where we saw sharks and manta rays. The passes were a bit tricky to snorkel because we needed to time it so that we were snorkeling during incoming current. We'd take the dinghy out of the pass just as the incoming current was starting to build, and throw the snorkelers into the water and drift back into the lagoon with the current. If the current wasn't going too hard, the dinghy driver would also hop in and snorkel while holding on to the dinghy. We also enjoyed some more relaxed snorkeling inside the lagoon and found some nice shallow coral areas right next to the anchorage. We also got to do a proper pass dive on scuba. Shalimar has two tanks, Ceilydh has a compressor, and Evan and Diane were nice enough to fill up Ryan's tanks. Since Ryan's wife Alex doesn't dive, he let Christine and I share one tank while he used the other. We dove the middle pass with folks from Ceilydh, Whatcha Gonna Do, and Piko. The group did two dives so Christine dove on the first dive and I dove on the second one.

The dive was nice but not super spectacular. If you're ever in Tahanea without scuba gear, you needn't be too sad. Everyone seemed to agree that snorkeling the smaller pass just to the north was in many ways better than diving the larger middle pass but it may be that we didn't go far enough out the pass to see more sharks and more dramatic bottom topography. At any rate, it was great to actually get in a dive and breathe underwater again.

We heard that there was an abandoned village a little south of where we were anchored where we could get water out of some rain collecting cisterns. Due to some poor planning and an initial misunderstanding of exactly where the village was located, we (including Ryan and Alex from Shalimar) decided to take our dinghies down there with our empty water jugs to get some water and explore the abandoned village. It turned out to be a much longer trip than any of us had anticipated. We ended up towing Shalimar's dinghy most of the way. Our dinghy is a little underpowered but Shalimar's dinghy just has an electric outboard with limited range and their battery wasn't fully charged. The return trip was interesting. Both of our dinghies were loaded down with water jugs and we had to cross two passes with outgoing current. While crossing the middle pass we had both of our outboards pinned and were only making about 1 or 2 knots against the current but we eventually managed to make it back just in time to attend another pot luck party - this time aboard the catamaran Ceilydh.

During our stay at Tahanea, I continued taking the Doxycycline pills I'd been taking for my rash and, for the most part, things continued to clear up. The exception was the backs of my hands. Little tiny blisters developed first on the back of my left hand (where the original infection had taken place) and then on my right hand. The instructions for the Doxycycline said to take it for 7 - 10 days even if the symptoms clear up earlier to avoid a return of the infection in a new antibiotic resistant version. I reached the 7 day mark and wanted to stop but wasn't sure if the little blisters were from the bacteria or something else. I was afraid that if it was from the bacteria that it would take off like crazy when I quit the antibiotics. The other possibility that occurred to me was that it was a reaction to the sun because the antibiotics cause extra sun sensitivity. So I just continued to take the pills and tried to keep my hands out of the sun. As you might imagine, keeping the backs of your hands out of the sun while living on a boat in the tropics is not easy. By the time we left Tahanea for Fakarava, both hands were swollen, painful, red, itchy, and covered in bumps. In short, they looked like zombie hands again. The whole thing didn't slow me down much until just before we left - then it got bad enough that I was starting to get a bit bummed out and worried. That's where we'll leave the zombie hand saga for now. The final installment will be the next post about Fakarava.


Bob said...

Hi Christine,
I wonder if you got Dengue fever. Most cases are mild, and it would fit with the rash. If so, you would be immune now to that strain at least.
sounds like fun out there!

Connor Dibble said...

Hi Jared and Christine,

I've been following your blog for a while now and I figure it's about time to introduce myself.

I bought a Mariner 31 in February and am slowly but surely getting it ready to leave. I live aboard in Berkeley, CA currently and plan to head south hopefully around February 2012 with a couple friends.

I've got a list a mile long on things to do before I go, but I'd love to hear about what has worked and what hasn't for you guys in terms of equipment and fitting out. I know your internet access is intermittent and I don't want to take a lot of your time, but if you get a chance to email me, I'd love to exchange messages.

My very best wishes on your continued travels.

Take care,

Connor Dibble
s/v Ardea

Jared Kibele said...

The following is what I emailed in response to Connor's question. I figured I should post it here too in case anyone find's it useful...

Hi Connor,

We're trying to finish some stuff up and leave Tahiti today so I'll have to keep this brief but I'll give you a really quick rundown...

Self steering: Our autopilot is great and has been well worth the money. You can find all the information you need on it in the "Autopilot" photoset here: I've filled in the photoset description and individual photo descriptions with part numbers and all that kind of stuff. We also have an Aires wind vane but it only works in ideal conditions. Randall on M31 Murre seems to like his monitor wind vane which works pretty much the same way but we like the autopilot much better despite the power draw on the batteries. I think the worm gear steering on our boats makes the servo pendulum wind vanes far less effective than they would be otherwise. They still work, just not very well. If I had enough money, I'd look into a Hydrovane or one of the similar auxiliary rudder windvanes.

Refridgeration: What works fine in California does not cut it down here. We have a very old Adler Bourbor cold machine and it works but we can't run it constantly because of the power draw. I thought about adding better insulation to our ice box before we left and didn't get around to it. I wish I had. If you want to really be able to use your fridge, you should insulate the hell out of it, get a good modern fridge unit, and get a good thermostat control unit. That being said, we just mostly leave ours off, try not to get perishables, and just generally turn it on for a few hours a day. We're surviving and having a good time and know lots of folks who have no fridge at all.

Sailing: Make sure you can go downwind easily and comfortably. For us, this mostly means using a whisker pole. We picked up a used line control one to pole out the genoa and it was really useful on the long passage to the Marquesas. A spinnaker pole somewhere in the 15 ft range would work almost as well and be a lot cheaper. Don't worry too much if you don't have a spinnaker. We bought and asymmetrical spinnaker and we don't use it much. It's nice to have but less useful than we'd thought it would be.

Radio stuff: SSB or, preferably, ham radios are really really useful. I was not a radio person before the trip but got the ham license for the trip and it's been a huge help. We have an ICOM IC-706MKIIG and the associated tuner and have been happy with it. We did not need a fancy ground plane. We just used copper strap to ground everything to our cockpit drain through-hulls and it works great. Rather than adding insulators to our backstay, we pulled the core out of some 5/16 line and ran wire up the rope sheath. Then we attached that parallel our backstay and held it off a few inches with pvc stand-offs. We did not get a pactor modem and really wish we had. We can get weather faxes via the radio and decode them with our laptop but the process takes a long time and requires supervision. Getting weather via the modem would be a lot easier and we'd also be able to get email at sea.

That's all I've got time for now and I think that covers the major concerns. You should definitely check out the forum if you haven't already. There's tons of useful information on there and you can find links to Randall's blog. He's out here somewhere on Murre too and he's super helpful.

Good luck and have fun.
-Jared and Christine