Dr. Katinka's practice

Winter on the Gambiers

I lie with my head under the covers and am just waking up from a deep sleep. It's pitch dark and the ship's movements are unrhythmic. The anchor alarm beeps, and I'm quickly on my feet. How I hate this. It's 2:30 in the morning. A look around tells me that the anchor is holding, although not much can be seen in the night. As a precaution, I turn on the plotter to make sure. The wind speed is 35 knots in the squall. Again and again these, from the south, fall into the anchor field. Winter has started here on the Gambiers. In the south highs and lows alternate and give themselves the door handle in the hand. After a low, a high follows in the west and then again a low. It makes no difference, the distances between the isobar lines are equally close in both systems. This means a lot of wind. A lot of wind.


Mostly it comes from southern directions and it is cold. The average temperature is around 22°C. The wind factor pushes the perceived temperature to nearly 15°C. For us, who have been in the tropics for two years, this is very cold. Since the squall, again and again strongly at the anchor chain tugs, I remain, for safety reasons, awake. The neighboring boat has approached precariously the land on upper wind side. But also there is light on board and already someone up. Also with it the anchor holds and thus it goes only with daylight anchor on, in order to remove itself somewhat from the coast. Yes the weather has changed noticeably. Actually this should happen only at the end of July, but this year it is too wet and too cold on the Gambiers, and all this also much too early. The water temperatures have now dropped below 25°C. This has one advantage. The hulls are again almost as clean as in the Atlantic. Obviously the barnacles don't like the cold and fall off. Also the microcosm that had formed from mucus and small animals, such as crabs, has disappeared and the hulls reappear. However, from about 20 minutes in the water, you need a wetsuit.


For the time being, we limit ourselves to shore excursions and visit the small cemetery above Rikitea. The last king of the Gambians is buried here. Maputeoa Gregoire lived from 1814 to 1857. When Laval came to the island to missionize the population, Maputeoa was quickly convinced and let himself be baptized. Thus, the rest of the population was quickly led to the Christian faith. Many did not survive. A little further on you will find the ruins of the Rouru Convent. It was founded in 1836. The Saint Joseph of Cluny sisters worked in the convent. With the death of Sister Godeberte in 1903, the operation ceased again. Since then the complex has been decaying. The convent was not founded by Laval but by Father Cyprien Antoine Liausu.


The island has many a surprise in store. The arrival of the supply ship Taporo VIII is also full of surprises. You never know exactly when it arrives, early in the morning it just stands at the pier. On these days the whole island is on its feet. Stores clear out their containers and load the goods coming from Tahiti onto trucks. The rest of the population waits patiently until one container after another is opened and the name is called out. With the delivery bill, which you have to pick out beforehand from a pile, of several hundred, you prove that the goods are yours and you can take them with you. I ordered hydraulic oil in Tahiti and am waiting for the container to open.

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In the meantime, I try to get hold of diesel. Diesel is sold only in 200 liter barrels and must be paid in cash. The barrel currently costs 33590 XPF. That is about 282€, so about 1,41€ per liter. You buy the barrel from the inspector and get a red ticket. With this you go to the gas station, a free place at the stern of the supply ship. Here you hand in the ticket and an empty barrel is refueled for you, from the ship. The space is enough for two barrels at the same time. With a tapping device consisting of a hose and a shut-off valve, the barrel is placed on four pallets and then filled the containers that you have brought with you. The more containers you have, the less you have to go back and forth with the dinghy. Only when your barrel is empty, the next one comes along. So it is advisable to get the red ticket early and get a barrel filled, otherwise you may be waiting, quite a while. Armed with three canisters, a 5 gallon, I start this sporty event. Three times I must drive, whereby with the last time the canisters are full to the brim. The canisters then have to be hoisted from the dock into the dinghy, brought to the ship, hoisted on deck again and refueled. This is done by hanging 25 kilos on the arm at the beginning and letting the diesel run slowly from the canister into the tank, always making sure that enough air gets into the canister, otherwise it starts to slosh and the mess spreads on deck. The next crew is already at your barrel and the looks tell you, you are too slow.


In between, my name comes up and I do a short sprint to pick up my hydraulic oil. Ähm, asks now only nobody for collecting pans or the same. But it doesn't work any differently when refueling the many cars that drive around on the island. There are no gas stations on the Gambiers. The day after the supply ship arrived, you have to be quick. Within two to three hours at the most, everything that can be considered fresh is sold out. The stores open at 5:00am. Last time, we already had problems getting potatoes at 6.00am. This time we are ready and are standing in front of the first store shortly after 5.00am. We get salad, red cabbage, various fruits and vegetables. Everything is quite expensive, but what do you want to do, everything has to be delivered by ship. For example, one kilo of potatoes costs 4.50€. But what the heck, it's Christmas soon, isn't it? From the temperatures it can be no longer long.

What we then next week so everything, you can read, as always here in the blog. Until then, fair winds and keep a stiff upper lip.

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