From the Uto ni Yalo 1800 nm and decreasing. Good Friday dawns and with it our morning devotional lead by Salome and Mausio. The crew have prepared some special hymns for the occasion. Seta reads from Mark about the Crucifixion and Mausio gives a special message appropriate for the Lenten season. After three hymns and the closing prayer we have our weekly crew meeting - Skipper presiding.
The topic of conversation is how to maximise our shore time in Tahiti so that the crew can attend official functions, have some time for R&R and complete all the necessary drua chores that will help the Uto ni Yalo recover from the weeks at sea. Work teams were organised. Watch crews will focus on hull cleaning and touch up of the unique graphic strip [design] that runs along the hull above the water line.
Each storage compartment will be cleaned and aired with relevant stores returned after airing. The deck, rails and other wood will be washed in fresh water and refinished where necessary. The sails will be inspected and repaired if there's any rips. All ropes will be inspected and tightened. The deck house will be cleaned and refinished. Each crew member will be responsible for clearing out and airing their gear while they wipe down walls and floors in their bunk areas. In other words the Uto will be ready to receive replacement crew as they join us in Papeete. With sadness we will sing "Isa lei" to our comrades that are either flying home or joining another vaka for the voyage to Bora Bora, The Cooks, Samoa and then back home. We are hoping we will all be able to reunite for our homecoming in Levuka and Suva in early June. What a moment for all of us!
"No regrets......they're egrets!" From out of the clear blue sky - literally four white phantoms appear. The crew wonders what they are? They haven't the appearance of the sea birds we have been accustomed to seeing each day. These birds had a distinct curvature of the neck as they flew indicating that when standing their neck was elongate. They possessed long dark knife-like beaks and long dark green legs with no webs. As they flew closer [they flew directly over the drua] it was obvious they were in the same family as our own "belo" - the Reef Heron - Egretta sacra. They had white plumage and were most likely Cattle Egrets. What were wading shore birds doing this far at sea? In fact Cattle Egrets are very terrestrial being seen in open farm fields searching for insects among the furrows. Our guess is that they were migrating to the Tuamotus as after five pass byes they flew in the direction we are heading......yelling "we'll take the lead and meet you there!" As the heron flies. Not really!
Aside: Thanks to Grahame Southwick for providing hours of entertaining reading for the crew. We've enjoyed reading his book "Hard day at the office" and his anecdotal style of relating many of his maritime experiences. Having caught a number of edible pelagic fish during our voyage we learned a lot more about the tuna fishing industry in the South Pacific from Grahame. We are in total agreement with Grahame that the stocks have severely declined due to overfishing of the bait stocks and the migratory species as well. We've seen this ourselves as we've passed by many long liners and purse seiners during our trip south and west.
Easter Saturday began with the Evohe [film support yacht] silhouetted [sp] against the tropical sun as it made its way to rendezvous with the Uto ni Yalo for an exchange of crew and materials [men and meat!]. Well actually it's Evohe Kate and Natalia exchanging with Uto Ni Yalo's Salome and Iva and with it we get frozen pork and beef stored there for us and they get 5 empty 25 liter water containers to fill from their "de-sal plant". We welcome Kate and will miss Lome and Iva while they're gone.
Having put up the genniker [sp.] yesterday we've been able to maintain a steady pace even with decreasing winds. Recall the the genniker is a large surface area kite-like sail rigged off the fore stay. It can "scoop" in large volumes of breeze like a whale shark engorges on krill. Never far from those marine similes! This action is in response to a change in the weather systems in the area. We have been advised that by Monday there will be decreasing winds and with it the slower pace of another tropical doldrum-like environment. We want to gain as much westerly distance before we slow down.
The crew has been exceptional throughout the wavering weather and long at sea periods. No visible signs of "expedition fever". No outbursts as a result of perceived frustrations. No bickering or back biting, a real testament to their resiliency and determination to remain a team. I step outside the modest role I play and become [as much as possible] an objective observer of at sea behaviour patterns. While the Watch Crew watches I get an opportunity to watch them. Not as a psychologist would, but as a person interested in group dynamics in a closed environment. And we are closed for sure! My objective is NOT to assess individuals, but rather to attempt to discover what factors have influenced the harmony that exists on board. I have come up with a few hypotheses that I will call "contributors" as I believe there is not a single element, but a synergy of several that are at work.
In no priority order they are......  Music - thanks to Skipper's speakers and library of a variety of music, the crew enjoys rhythms and tunes any time they wish. Music has a way of......doesn't it?  Sense of humour - there is a collective quality of laughter based on the good natured personalities of the crew. They are serious when at work and almost adolescent when at play! After all there is a child in all of us and there's no shame in showing it at the appropriate time.  Food - Ben, with the able culinary skills of LeeAnn and Salome, has continued to prepare and serve tasty foods even under pretty radical conditions! The crew in turn appreciates their efforts.  Leadership style - Skipper is a fluent speaker of Fijian and has commanded multi-national crews before. His ability to captivate the crew during story telling sessions while demanding the highest level of sailing performance suits our mixed crew.  Devotional sessions - The crew prides itself in having a Christian heritage. Weekly sessions tend to keep them in touch with this in a communal way.  Tolerance - there is an obvious and much appreciated effort from crew to overlook little niggles that we all possess. You know those innocent quirks that under most land based situations would be ignored or unnoticed, but at sea seem to magnify? If some crew are bothered by any they have been adept at recognising them and accepting them for what they are without blowing them out of all proportion! Vinaka vaka levu crew of the drua - Uto ni Yalo!
tabu soro Viti kei Rotuma......as Easter Sunday is near we wish you a blessed Sunday with the prayer that you are indeed in recovery mode.