June 26 – 27, 2013
There was no shortage of activity for our first day in Kauehi. It was a day for birthdays. Guillaume (s/v Sueño) was turning eleven, and Finn (s/v Dolphin of Leith) was turning four. The double birthday party was held on the deserted motu just in front of our boats. There was a potluck by the bonfire, and the birthday moms, along with some extra help, had come up with a very creative treasure hunt.
For the treasure hunt prizes, each child was given three activities to choose from. Justine won an afternoon of scuba diving instruction with Vicky (s/v Dolphin of Leith), and Colin won a night of camping on the island with a friend and no adults. Other choices for Justine had been a kite boarding lesson or a baking lesson. Other choices for Colin were kite boarding or scuba diving lessons. Along with some of these choices, other kids had choices such as fishing with Dad, wake boarding, or hokie pokie making lessons.
Due to the involvement of the treasure hunt prizes, the day after the party was another busy day of preparation and activity. Throw in a bit of confusion and uncertainty, as well.
First, Justine’s scuba lesson went extremely well. Before getting in the water, Vicky went over scuba basics with Justine, Finnley (s/v MacPelican), and Guillaume (s/v Sueño) on the beach. Then, she took them into the water one at a time for the hands-on portion. Since we have acquired an assortment of dive equipment, and have the dive compressor, we were able to loan gear and re-fill tanks. Justine thoroughly enjoyed the scuba lesson and was extremely excited when Vicky complemented her and told her she was ready to become certified.
Next came the confusion of who was going camping and did the younger crowd need an adult. Each child who won the camping option could choose a friend to go with them. The camping option was mostly meant for the older children, and mainly the boys. However, by the time everyone had invited their choice of friend, the camping group consisted of ages 7 to 15 years old, boys and girls mixed. There was discussion whether to separate the younger kids from the older kids, and place an adult with the younger group. According to one dad who had been a Scout leader, due to the challenges, a 7 year old was mentally incapable of camping without an adult present.
Camping on this desert island would prove challenging for a person of any age. As soon as it grew dark, everyone would tune into all the strange noises created by the wind blowing through the trees or fish splashing at the shore. However, that wasn’t the worst of it. The moment night falls, rats crawl out from their hiding places, and the ground turns into a moving carpet with thousands of hermit crabs. How was anyone going to get any sleep?
The decision was finally made to have all of the kids camp together in one group. Hammocks were hung from the trees with tarps overhead, and plastic barriers were placed to keep the rats from climbing the trees to the hammocks. We surely didn’t want any of our children’s toes nibbled on!
Each camp kid packed their bags with all the necessities, including flash lights and toilet paper. Each parent supplied some form of food and beverage, and the kids were responsible for cooking their meals over the fire. We had planned to deliver pancake batter the next morning.
Justine was the only kid who didn’t go camping. She was going to go, but when the number of young campers grew, she decided to enjoy the peace and quiet of home instead.
As each kid was delivered to the beach, they were told one very important rule. A dinghy ride in the dark through coral head infested waters was not easy or safe. Therefore, any kid who made a VHF call to their parents, and a parent needed to go to the island, then that kid would be taken back to their boat for the rest of the night. No exceptions. Other than that, they were on their own, and all bets were on!
Most parents took the night as an opportunity to have couple alone time. However, Nathalie and David (s/v Sueño) were still up for hanging out with others, and since we still had Justine, they came over with wine and a board game. Periodically, we would look out towards the beach, and we’d see the campfire getting bigger and bigger. There might not be anything left of the island by the end of the night, but we knew the kids were having fun! Then, at about 10 p.m. we got the dreaded “call”.
Guillaume (s/v Sueño) was calling Full Monty. Colin was sick to his stomach and had thrown up. Wil dinghied to shore, and David and Nathalie waited with me for details. Colin said he was feeling better and wanted to stay. We figured since Colin wasn’t the person who made the call, we would let him stay. Wil had not even returned to the boat yet, before Colin was making the second call. He wasn’t better and wanted to come home. We redirected Wil back to the shore.
Once we had Colin onboard, and after a little while, he began to feel better again. He wanted to return to the campout. As much as he hated it, we made him stay home for the rest of the night. We told him he could return to the beach when we delivered the pancake batter in the morning. Colin got a good night sleep, and by morning he was chomping at the bit to get back to the beach. Wil dropped him off at 6 a.m., and not a creature was stirring. Apparently, no one had gone to sleep until about 4 a.m.! Colin proceeded to get the campfire going again, so he could make breakfast for the crowd.
Over time we learned that there were several kids who had become sick that night. Although, Colin was the only one who came home. We suspected it was due to the high amount of junk food consumed throughout the evening. Hot dogs, marshmallows, Goldfish crackers, chocolate cake, chocolate chips, etc. Their poor, empty stomachs were loaded with sugar, and sugar that so many of them had not had in a very long time.
Later, we also learned that earlier in the camp evening, there had been some squabbles amongst some of the kids. In order to work out their problems they had gathered together for a “conflict resolution” session. Apparently, on the day before, many of the kids had taken notice of a conflict that had occurred with the adults, and they had seen how we had all worked things out. All the parents were so proud to hear about that one!
Amidst the good, there was also not so good, but the kids all learned valuable lessons from their experience ashore. Many ended up with minor burns from cooking, walking across hot ashes, or playing with fire. Some had cuts on their feet. There had been exploding glass from placing a sealed glass jar on the fire. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured from the flying glass. The rats had become like pets during the night, eating whatever crumbs fell on the ground, or running across the kids’ feet. The rats and the hermit crabs also didn’t hesititate to clean up any vomit that was lying around on the ground! How do you like that image?
Surprisingly, the kids remained on the island for most of the next day. They called for snorkel gear and played at the beach. By the time they all returned to the boats, they were exhausted. Even the highest energy kids were quiet and motionless. We brought 15 year old Nikolai (s/v Voyageur) with us when we all re-anchored the boats a little further down the island and he fell asleep on our salon floor.
We many never know everything that happened during that night of camping, but it will be a cherished memory in their minds for the rest of their life.