After a short stop in Neiafu for provisions, internet, water, and hanging out with friends yet again, we headed back out to the islands. The first stop was Avaldu Island (anchorage #40). Avaldu rests behind a large reef about a mile or so to the south, so the water is fairly calm. It’s uninhabited except for a small herd of goats, and has a beautiful beach on its west and south sides.

DSC_0459 View of the beach from the boat

DSC_0485 Lauren bringing us in to windsurf

DSC_0489 Clear, calm water

The French boat S/V Avel Mad joined us, and Ben is a good windsurfer. Since we had a nice beach with shallow water, the wind blowing us back toward land, and a day with no other exploring planned, we finally pulled out the windsurfer for a long overdue second lesson. Ben got us back up to the point we were after our first lesson with Ken back in Florida (more falling off than anything, but getting close to starting to sail), and the next morning we headed back to the beach for another round. This time, Lauren and I both did much better. The winds were light, and we need some more tips on what to do once you’re actually able to stand up with the wishbone in your hands, but we both sailed a short distance. I made it about 100 feet in the light winds, and found that being right-handed, the starboard tack is easier for me — it took me several tries to sail back to where I’d started.

DSC_0502 Pura Vida

DSC_0522 Lauren walking the beach

DSC_0528 Finally up and moving

While I was taking a break on the beach, a local swam around the southeast top of island and up to the beach dragging a couple of old rice bags tied to an empty anti-freeze bottle acting as a float. His name was Gopo and he was collecting cuttlefish to sell in Neiafu (8 panga each) where they’re apparently sold as a food item to Chinese buyers. While we explored the interior of the island a bit, he collected a number of young, green coconuts for us. The young, green ones are a bit harder to find but make a delicious energy drink. Gopo opened a couple of them, and they really hit the spot after a couple hours of trying to windsurf. We gave Gopo a ride in our dinghy out to the next reef so he could continue his collecting and then motored toward his friends on the fishing boat to signal to them and let them know about his new location. On the way back to the beach to pick up the windsurfer, I saw a whale off in the distance on the other side of the reef. Humpbacks are quite common here, and this one shot up into the air, looking like a submarine shooting up from deep water. It landed with a huge splash that dwarfed the breakers at the edge of the reef. It made a nice rolling fin-slap afterwards and then we didn’t see it again.

DSC_0552 Mmmmmmmm

DSC_0557 Gopo with some of his catch

We made a short afternoon sail over to Euafaka Island (#32), following Avel Mad to our next stop as well. We arrived in a napping mood, and decided to leave exploring for the next day. Wes and Tiff came up with the idea of a nice dinner on the beach with a bonfire, so we all headed ashore with our food and wine in the cooler to enjoy a bonfire and dinner. The seemingly dry leaves here don’t light and burn quite as well as they did back home, so we enlisted the locally-used fire-starter — gasoline. A little gasoline from the dinghy on a paper towel did nicely and we soon had a nice little fire. Wes did a nice job providing music by connecting an FM transmitter to an mp3 player so we could listen to our own private FM channel on one of our radios. While we were enjoying the moonlit evening on the beach, we noticed lights in the water near our boat.. At first we thought maybe they were reflections of the moonlight or phosphorescence, but after a minute it was clear they were flashlights. Apparently the locals we had seen at the other end of the beach when we landed were swimming their way around the island’s fringing reef looking for lobsters. For the landlubbers, lobsters generally hide during the day and come out at night to scavenge, when they’re easily spotted crawling along the bottom, with eyes that reflect light like a specially coated highway sign.

The wind died almost completely while we were ashore, and when we returned to the boat, it was a really a beautiful sight. The water below the boat was nearly 30 feet deep, but it was so calm and clear that the gibbous moon provided enough light to see the rocks, coral, and contours on the bottom. It was like a real-life version of one of those paintings that shows the underwater view beside a beautiful beach and island above it. Of course there weren’t three dolphins, a whale, two manta rays, a starfish, and a sea turtle in view all at the same time like in the whimsical paintings, but it was a memorable sight nonetheless.