BEACHCOMBING – RANGIROA ATOLL, TUAMOTUS, SOUTH SEAS |
Glittering sunlight shafting diagonally through his open hatch, her captain gradually becomes conscious another day has dawned. Powerless to resist the pull, he rises, and standing on his bunk, pokes his head out of the hatch surveying the early morning scene. That gorgeous dewy look is everywhere - running rivulets off the sky, dripping from the palms, slithering down the glass of the hatch and collecting momentarily in prismatic globs on the sun greyed teak decking. Airborne frangipani fragrance wafts all around and our captain espy’s the ‘dance master’ from the other evening gliding along the beach – funny how certain smells can trigger earlier related visions! Eyes blinking, she is gone, the beach now empty of human life. All that remains are the very same coconut husks strewn about, unmoved, as they were yesterday. The still air produces hardly a sound this early. The flat glassy sheet of lagoon water is undisturbed apart from an occasional plop of small fish leaving behind their ever widening circles as they flop back in.
Scalding coffee from the cafetiere injects some life into their veins and kick starts the day. Our little ship, drawing her nourishment from the water she is in and the wind, wonders why her crew have to sit down at regular intervals, ingesting vulgar quantities of all kinds of food? It must be important to them as they spend an inordinate amount of time engaging in this pastime. At least when they are thus occupied they are not poking and prodding at her! Over breakfast and sheltering under the awning, her captains gaze is once again drawn to the sandy strip he explored the afternoon before – embedded in his brain since he first looked this morning it nags at him now - something has changed in the disorderly pattern of the driftwood strewn along the beach. He missed something yesterday? Has it arrived overnight? Is he imagining a distorted form in the shimmering curtains rising from the sand? Whatever, there is a rounded dark lump where there wasn’t yesterday. He cannot leave this place without investigating – so into the tender and a quiet pull to shore. He slipped away with hardly a sound Local Beachcomber but our little ship feels his anticipatory excitement. ‘Off on a wild goose chase again!’ she supposes - but, what if it is what he thinks it could be? It just might be, after all these years of looking. Maybe his fortune is in today and he is about to strike lucky. Stooping to lift it from its bed in the sand he is almost overcome with the possibilities. Hefting it in his hands he estimates the weight at around twelve kilograms – wow! At twelve US dollars per gram, that is a small fortune! No matter it cannot be traded in the US, there are plenty of places where it can be sold on the open market. Cradling it in his arms he shuffles back to the Avon, placing it reverently in the bottom, and rows back with considerably greater energy than going in. Careful not to lose his balance on his wobbly platform, he gently rolls it into the cockpit. Announcing to the rest of her crew the arrival of this great treasure, he dives into the locker containing the sewing kit60 and pulls out a monstrous sail needle. These needles have a large spaded tip, sharp as, to penetrate leather, and with an overall appearance of malicious intent. Heated to a red glow over the stove, her captain inserts the searing tip into his new found object of worship. Apart from radiating a few lazy wisps of white smoke, nothing happens. No pool of dark viscous fluid with musky fragrance? Reheat the needle and insert again in a different position – same result, nothing. Several more attempts produce no further change, and the remainder of her crew by this time are super sceptical and articulating many banal offerings! Her captain finally gives in and accepts that ‘his’ lump is not a piece of ambergris – fools gold! No matter, it created some interest for a time. Its momentary attraction over and having no further use, the ‘blob’ is consigned back to whence it came. Lobbing it overboard, it is last seen disappearing at the end of its parabolic curve with a dull lagoon gulp. Sinking slowly, a few small fish follow it to rest on the floor of the lagoon, raising a dusty cloud of sand, then ignore it. Never did find out what it was!
The lightly gusting breeze breathes into her sails, whitely ballooning and majestic, driving her back across the lagoon at a respectable five knots. Sibling crew now making the top pulpit rail her home in these situations is constantly indicating to the helmsman with her arms to steer to port or starboard to avoid a coral head. Most of them pass by harmlessly and well under our little ships’ keel. Sailing into the afternoon sun our little ship chides them to be extra vigilant so they can see under the stabbing reflections off the lagoon surface. There are no boatyards around these parts to haul her out if she gets a damaged foot. One such of these is marked on the chart with an accurate GPS position and she is steering a wide berth around it. Suddenly, she is aware of a large mountain dead ahead. Alarmed she rattles her forestay to attract sibling crews’ attention. Sweeping left to right and back, sibling crews eagle vision pierces the curtain of white light, picks up the looming dark outline dead ahead, and gesticulates wildly with left arm to turn sharply to port. Immediately understanding the danger, Anglo crew throws the helm over and all eyes are riveted over her starboard side, staring wide eyed and with baited breath as the snapping brown fangs slide past within millimetres of her hull. The tallest point is no more than half a metre under the surface and could wreak some serious damage if its teeth were able to grind into her side. Clear and present danger passed, her crew look at each other with relief clearly etched on their faces. With nervy grins they congratulate one another on yet again avoiding disaster. ‘Good seamanship all round’, purrs her captain, with the thought that the slightest error by the helmsman in reading the bow spotters’ signals would have resulted in them putting our little ship ‘hard to’ on the coral head – not a position any of them would wish for! The GPS co-ordinates are rechecked and found to be a little out - this is corrected and a log entry made to advise the chart publishers of the error.
Later that evening, sibling crew confesses to having been distracted and looking at the wharf and village of Tiputa Passe on approaching the coral head – something snapped in the back of her mind and brought her attention back to her job in the same instant she saw the approaching hazard. ‘Of course, you bumpkin! It was me rattling my forestay at you’. Our little ship chips in. Sibling crew is not sure, but she feels a nibble in that same part of her brain again. ‘Hmmmm, I wonder?’ she muses.’ Can’t possibly be - boats don’t have their own personalities – or do they?’
Extract from the ebook ‘Voyage of the Little Ship ‘Tere Moana’ downloadable from my sailboat2adventure websitesailing, sailboat, vacation, adventure, beachcombing, ambergris,