Excerpt from This It It – 2 hemispheres, 2 people, and 1 boat
Tahanea Atoll is part of the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. For an atoll, it is large, measuring almost thirty miles in length; the maximum width is just under ten miles. There’s a narrow entrance and a wide lagoon to anchor within. It’s uninhabited but visited occasionally by islanders from neighbouring atolls for fishing.
We anchored in clear, turquoise water a fair distance away from shore and the other three boats already there. We declined the offer of joining the other cruisers on a shark dive in the passageway – sharks weren’t my thing; I noticed Noel wasn’t that keen, either.
‘They won’t hurt you,’ they said. ‘The sharks there have no teeth; they can only suck the flesh off your arm!’
We weren’t sure if this was a joke or reality; either way, the outcome wasn’t endearing.
We took time to assemble, pump up, and off-load our large rubber dinghy; we wanted to snorkel on a reef, but first, we had to float our anchor chain. Finding a sandy patch to anchor in was a little tricky; between the anchor and the boat, the chain would snag on coral heads. The sharp coral can wear chain over time but, short-term, the chain causes damage. Our boat fenders were ideal floats. Every five metres, we lashed a fender to the chain to keep it floating above the living structure of the reef and to prevent snatching where the chain had been shortened when snagged. I kept one eye open for sharks.
With that job done, we puttered over to a coral patch, where we thought we’d be safe. This is where I learned I could walk on water.
There we were, having a jolly good time drifting along with the gentle current, watching colourful fish flash alongside vibrant coral. Noel swam about twenty metres in front of me, and something made me turn around. As I swung my head over my left shoulder, I practically touched noses with a black-tip shark. A cold rush of terror gushed into my belly as if a sluice gate had been opened.
Noting its teeth and bulky length at almost twice my height, I screamed, spun around, and flailed my way towards Noel. Running on pure adrenaline, I didn’t make the decision – fight or flight didn’t cross the wreckage of my mind, but clearly, flight had won the day. I can be calm when in immediate danger; meeting a shark so intimately had proven this wasn’t always the case.
As I thrashed my way towards Noel, I forgot to breathe, but my mind conveniently decided to voice its opinion.
You’re never going to out swim a shark! My thoughts tormented me; they were at odds with my physical emotions as if they were sitting back in a deck chair enjoying the show.
Any moment sharky is going to be enjoying lunch care of your left thigh.
But I couldn’t stop. I had leaped into sheer panic mode. I had no control of my actions, and it appeared that I couldn’t control my thoughts, either.
As I flogged my way nearer to Noel, he was blissfully unaware of my stress as he silently snorkelled in peace. He jumped two foot clear of the water as I grabbed his leg, clawed across his back, and sat on his shoulders.
‘What the…. what’re you doing, gerrrooofff!’
He pulled me down beside him.
‘Shark, there’s a shark!’ I scanned the area. Sharky was hiding somewhere, clearly having a good titter at my expense.
‘It grinned at me. It was so close I nearly kissed it!’ I said breathlessly. ‘I think we upset him by not going to see him with the diving excursion, and he decided to pay us a visit.’ Fear makes me ramble.
Noel laughed. ‘It’s okay. Let’s go over there. It’s a bit shallower, and we can regroup.’
We stood on a reef, where the water came to above my knees. I peered at Pyewacket way off on the horizon.
‘At least the dinghy is nearby.’
‘Well, it’s a few minutes swim to reach it,’ Noel said. My heart did a little flip.
‘Will you let go of me now?’ Noel said as he tried to unpeel my arms away from his neck. I’d become a remarkable human form of Velcro.
‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ Noel muttered as he managed to free himself, and I turned to look. I knew his cool demeanour didn’t always mean the situation was cool. And I was right. My mate with the sharp teeth circled us, clearly revelling in our situation. He had us surrounded. Round and around he swam; his black beady eyes watching.
‘Shit!’ I can be so eloquent.
‘Let’s head back to the dinghy,’ Noel suggested.
‘And how do you propose we do that?’ I asked with my knees knocking. I had found the thing scared me silly. I didn’t like any of it – the thumping adrenaline or trembling limbs. Blind panic and tremendous fear wasn’t something I experienced often; now it was becoming frequent!
I searched around the area and found two three-foot sticks to carry. I am not sure what I could have done if the blacktip fancied a munch. Perhaps poke him a bit and give him the hump? But it made me feel better.
Much to Noel’s amusement, I swam back to the dinghy in circles, so I could keep an eye on anything that lurked behind me.
That moment changed my enjoyment of dipping in the oceans forever, but I didn’t know I’d be gleefully jumping into shark infested water again… soon.
For more stories on our current escapades and more pictures: click here.
Our boat is for sale: click here to have a good look at our 1920s Dutch Barge.
Author blog: www.jackieparry.com
Travel blog: www.noelandjackiesjourneys.com
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00OT9CWV8
Amazon book links
A Standard Journey: viewBook.at/astandardjourney
Of Foreign Build: viewBook.at/OfForeignBuild
Cruisers’ AA (accumulated acumen): viewBook.at/cruisersaa
This Is It: viewBook.at/thisisit
Audio Excerpt Of Foreign Build: http://goo.gl/AnsKRr
Photo album of A Standard Journey: http://goo.gl/1QgMp2
Photo album of Of Foreign Build: https://jackieparry.com/of-foreign-build-photo-album/
Photo album of Cruisers’AA: https://jackieparry.com/pics/
Photo album of This Is It: https://jackieparry.com/photos-this-is-it/
A Standard Journey FB Page: https://goo.gl/uV7NGY
Cruisers’ AA FB Page: https://goo.gl/2vEnkB
Of Foreign Build FB Page: https://goo.gl/VvLT3M
Listen to me chat to Carol Graham (Never Ever Give Up) about sailing, pirates, adopting horses, and surviving life! http://app.stitcher.com/splayer/f/69073/41215218