Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Cruisers' Party Line: VHF Radio

While out cruising, our main method of communicating with other cruisers is the VHF radio. It has a range of up to 25 miles, and all boats have one. Most boats have two or more. We have one main unit, with two microphones, and a handheld that we can take to shore.

So, for you landlubbers, the basic process is you call the boat you want to chat with on channel 16, which everyone monitors. Then you arrange to move your conversation to another channel. At this time, any number of boats may also move to that channel to get the scoop on whatever fascinating bit of info you might be chatting about. Most radios even have a 'dual-watch' feature, which enables you to monitor channel 16 and another channel at all times...the ultimate in eavesdropping convenience.

John and I have had our share of fun lurking on the VHF, and any boater who denies having listened in is absolutely fibbing!! But...we've gotten pretty tired of the constant chatter in the busier anchorages, and listening in to others talk about their dinner plans, or their next anchorage, gets a bit tiring, not to mention that you often need to physically drop whatever you are doing to go and change the channel, so we rarely have the energy or interest anymore to do much lurking.

But...for Amy and Strahan, this was a new phenomenon and the source of endless entertainment. As a result of constant listening and channel changing, Amy was in the know. She could tell you which boat was dining where, and with whom. And who was leaving the anchorage, and where they were heading. Who was going snorkeling and at what time. And so on.

Sure is quiet around here these days...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Toau - Lobster for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner!

After Amy and Strahan left us, we grabbed a few more provisions, loaded up at the bakery, and attempted to weigh anchor. Of course it was stuck among several coral heads, and I needed to dive down to investigate, and to direct John in the direction to steer the boat in order to untangle us! We were shocked that we had managed to get so ensnared, as we had only just dropped the hook the night before. Oh well. We managed to get ourselves free within about 45 minutes, we were on our way.

We had a calm day, and motor-sailed about 20 miles to Toau, a small atoll north-west of Fakarava. We headed to the south end, where we anchored with Capaz and IO. Once we arrived I did my usual snorkel to check on our anchor, and changed our zinc while I was there. This zinc only lasted two months...we sure go through them fast in these tropical waters.

After we had a chance to grab a bite to eat, we headed ashore to see if we could find lobster. Mike and Hyo (IO) were there, as well as Brad, Austin and Bryce from Capaz. As we headed in the direction of the reef, John and I chatted with two locals (they and their father are the only ones that live here), and they assured us that it was easy to find lobster on the outer reef. So we trudged off with our flashlights, and started looking through the ankle-deep water for the reflection of the lobster eyes. After trudging and searching with a success rate of nil, we found ourselves more engaged by Mike's awesome marine biology lessons, than the hunt for the invisible lobster. I'm sure we were almost as good as his students in Bamfield!!

We soon saw lights coming towards us, and our two friends, Martin and Jean, had donned their wetsuits, plastic go-anywhere shoes (I should write a separate blog post just about those shoes), Coleman lanterns, and big blue barrels strapped to their backs. When they caught up with us, they already had snagged several lobster and reef fish for the bottom of their barrel. The brothers tried to teach us how to spot the eyes of the lobster, but we were slow learners. I didn't spot one the entire evening. John spotted and caught a couple, but Jean took pity on him, and pointed him in the right direction several times. It would have been a bit of a comedy show to see all of us lurking through the waters of the reef, and then running after and trying to grab these lobster. We weren't nearly as good as the two pros, but at least we won't starve. In addition to lobster, they were also catching reef fish - mostly parrotfish. This was a new fishing with a machete! The guys could kill the fish with one slash of the machete. It was unbelievable. The only sad part about the evening is that my camera was out of batteries, and that Strahan missed out...he would have loved it! We arranged to meet the guys in the morning to go on a coconut crab hunt.

The next day, Mike and John went to the beach to hunt crab with the brothers at a remote motu (islet). After some time on the beach, they came out in the brothers launch to deliver lunch to us ladies who decided to sleep in and let the boys hunt. Fresh barbecued fish and lobster. WOW. Of course Hyo and I both ate ours immediately. We saved the rest to share later in the day.

Eventually, the boys returned with two coconut crabs, and we arranged a big feast aboard Capaz later that evening. What a night! Lobster, crab, and PJ even had fresh veggies!

Our Position: 15°57.8'S and 145°52.2'W