Saturday, July 27, 2013

Paella on the Beach... in Winter

After one peaceful night in Aukena, the wind shifted a bit and created massive gusts into the anchorage. Water spray flew off the wind waves and it gusted between 40 and 50 knots. Irie was pushed back with a vengeance to bounce forward and then back again, repeating the jarring motion. Luckily, we trust our anchor gear. The wailing sound in the rigging was quite something else. How is it possible that the Gambier weather keeps deteriorating even more? It has been blowing extremely hard (around 30 knots) with rain squalls for days. As I write this, back in the “protected” harbor of Rikitea, a massive wind gust just caught us from behind and ripped our bimini (cockpit shade cover) out of the boat. The aluminum frame ripped apart and some of the canvas ripped as well. Boats are doing different things in the fluky, strong wind and we hope nobody runs into anyone else. We have never experienced weather conditions like this. Where are the tropics? Out of reach, because of the weekly fronts (it is either too windy, 20-30 knots, or too calm, under 10 knots, averaging out that perfect “ready to leave” 15-20 knots that never arrives) passing through and ever changing weather predictions, for the worse…

Before all this, there was a “medium” windy day. Mark and I took the dinghy ashore and joined our Spanish friends Roser and Kiku of SV Socarrao for a traditional Spanish meal in the yard of Bernard, a friendly Mangarevan living on Aukena with his family. They had invited a German couple (and their two kids) as well. Bernard had killed four wild chickens and the couple cooked paella above a wood fire. The end result was pretty and tasty. We supplied some side dishes and fresh bread, while the Germans baked and brought dessert. There was enough sangria and other alcohol to accompany the feast and warm us up a bit, at least our throats. While the palm trees were violently waving and the wind howled above, we braved some light rain and winter chills at the picnic bench. 

To get some exercise, all of us walked across the hill and through a cave to the windward side of the island. And we thought it was windy on our side! We joined the hundred or so pigs, Bernard raises and sells. Their pen is extensive and has a beautiful setting, on a sunny day. None of us lasted long, so we returned to the house and then on to our own floating home, where the only warm place was in bed under the covers. Mark and I have spent way too much time indoors and in bed to be somewhat comfortable after wet dinghy rides, necessary swims (we lost Mark’s only swim trunks overboard in a nasty gust and were unsuccessful saving them by dinghy, so I had to don a wetsuit and snorkel gear, parts of Irie’s bottom needed cleaning, the rudder had to come out again to be checked) and motoring through the lagoon in wet and windy conditions, and we have lost many nights of sleep in anchorages turning tricky because of inconsistent wind, to not recommend cruisers (and tourists) to spend time in the Gambier during the southern hemisphere winter! We are (and have been) checking the weather forecasts every day in order to leave.

Roser tending to the paella on the wood fire

Mark and Bernard playing backgammon

Pigs on the beach, eating coconuts (No, they don't cut them open themselves!)

Warming up after the short, but cold and windy walk

Rainbow over Rikitea and Mangareva

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