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Report Nine from the Otter: Ashore in Tahiti, then to Bora Bora

Aboard the yacht Otter
Opua, New Zealand
December 1999

Dear Friends and E-mail Family,

Itís evening and Iím below in the cabin of Otter, attempting to put my notes and thoughts together concerning the last four-and-a-half months. The last writings I sent to my brother John were in August and were through to my arrival in Tahiti; now I am trying to catch up to my arrival in New Zealand, which was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

The Sunday after my landfall here, my wife Sandy flew into Auckland at 6:00 a.m. We took two days to drive north to Opua, then south two days to Tauranga, and then spent the rest of the time exploring Auckland. She left the following Saturday evening. The visit was a precious holiday gift. We only squabbled two or three times Ė mostly over my driving, (Amazing -- going 100 km/hour after a year at only four knots!) Sandy says the worry lines in my face are disappearing.

Back on Otter, digging into the journals and logbooks and scraps of notes and guidebooks and charts, Iím slowly reassembling pieces of the last few months. Itís cold outside now at night, 62į , and I need a sweatshirt as I write, even though itís 67į in the cabin. My blood has thinned out a lot, and after living since St. Thomas last December in t-shirts, shorts, and 85į weather, this feels cold.

Through the portholes I can see the dozens of other boats at anchor around me and feel the cozy glow of their soft lights in the dark. I drift back. The time line since the last Report from Otter is as follows:

Sunday, July 11 Ė arrive in Tahiti

Tuesday, July 13 Ė Sandy arrives and spends two weeks; we sail out to Bora Bora

Saturday, July 31 Ė my friend Todd arrives and visits for three weeks. We explore and sail slowly back to Tahiti.

Friday, August 20 Ė Todd leaves. I stay in Papeete at the yacht quay for five weeks

Tuesday, September 20 Ė Depart Moorea Ė sail to Rarotonga. Itís 610 miles and takes seven days

Tuesday, October 5 Ė Arrive in Rarotonga and stay eight days

Wednesday, October 13 Ė Depart Rarotonga for Nive Ė 592 miles in six days

Tuesday, October 19 Ė Arrive in Nive and stay six days

Monday, October 25 Ė Leave Nive for Vavaíu, Tonga Ė 250 miles in two days

Wednesday, October 27, 1999 Ė The day that wasnít Ė It disappears as I cross the date line

Thursday, October 28 Ė arrive in Tonga; stay 10 days

Saturday, November 6 Ė Depart Tonga for New Zealand Ė 1,262 miles in 17 days, two of which are spent anchored inside the "Kingdom of Brec" (North Minverva reef)

Tuesday, November 23 Ė arrive in Opua, New Zealand

Sunday, November 28 Ė Sandy arrives for a one-week visit

The plan is to sit out the cyclone season here in New Zealand through April before I continue on. Iíll be in Opua in the North of North Island into February, then sail down to Auckland and spend a few weeks in a marina in the city near the Americaís Cup Village. Then itís south to Tauranga, where there is a new and inexpensive marina where Otter will be hauled out for seasonal maintenance and repairs. And I hope to spend three weeks traveling around South Island in March, then leave New Zealand by mid-April.

Sandy sent me some of your e-mails and letters in Rarotonga and brought another batch with her here to New Zealand. It means a lot to hear from you all. It keeps me in touch; it encourages me to continue, and even though my replies may take a long time, each one is appreciated.

I hope you enjoy the next installments.

Weíre all on the journey,

Brec

______________________________________________________________________________

Below are a few observations and thoughts about the islands I had sailed so far to see . . .

"Otaheite," the land of dream and fantasy since its first discovery by Europeans; "Tahiti," a name that has become synonymous with paradise.

Bougainville, the French explorer, wrote of Tahiti on his return to France in 1768, calling it "la Nouvelle Cythere," or the "New Cytheria," after the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. He spoke in glowing terms of its beauty and its warmth and ease of living, of the handsome, welcoming people, their sexual openness -- the Islands of Love.

The year after Bougainville's return to France, Captain James Cook arrived in the Endeavour to set up an observation point for viewing the transit of Venus across the sun in the hopes that from this and simultaneous observations in Norway and Canada, the distance to the sun could be measured.

The name "Otaheite" appears on a 1769 chart of the island by then-lieutenant Cook, who was reported to have asked, "What island is this?" and received the reply, "O Ė Taheite," or, "It is Ė Taheite." Nautical charts of the area carried this name up through the 1800ís.

On his return to England, Cook also wrote an account of "Otaheite." The matter-of-fact language of Cook's account confirmed those of the French and fired the imagination of the English-speaking world.

Such accounts lent a romantic reality to the philosopher Rousseau's essays on natural law and theories of mankind's "natural" state, furthering images of "the noble savage" that persist to this day as part of the Tahitian legend.

Every new foreign contact has created change in the Tahitian culture, change that has been bemoaned, even at the time, as unfortunate. For example, Cook observed that the Tahitians' dependence on metal nails for fish hooks was destroying their ability to make hooks from bone. He also saw their reliance on the occasional European ship as regrettable, since they were thereby losing their traditional skills.

The London Missionary Society arrived in 1797 and began converting Tahitians to Protestantism while simultaneously replacing sexual openness and traditional dress with 18th century English morality, social mores, and clothing.

The French arrived in force in 1842, establishing political and linguistic control by 1846, and American whalers used Tahiti as a port-of-call for resupply, repair, and, occasionally, the transfer of their cargoes of whale oil throughout the height of South Pacific whaling in the early-to-mid-1800's.

Paul Gauguin, looking for the wild and noble savage side of his own nature, felt he could find it here. His arrival coincided with the death of the last Tahitian king, Pomare V, in 1891; Gauguin bemoaned the effect of French colonial government on the traditional Polynesian culture.

In my short visit I witnessed what I believe signals great changes to the existing culture with the arrival of the first of the giant Caribbean-type cruise ships, the Renaissance 3. I, too, add my small voice to the long list of the bemoaners of change.

Yet the Tahitian spirit and people are amazingly adaptable and retain strong roots to their history and traditions despite the centuries of change.

Taking all of this in, Iím reminded of a conversation I had with a photographer I met in Norwalk before I departed. She and her boyfriend had trekked through Nepal, where they met American expatriates living in remote villages wearing the traditional robes and clothing.

She said these transplants complained that the young Nepalese were losing their culture because they all wanted to wear Nike sneakers, Gap clothing, and Casio watches, all in an effort to look American. Are they any less Nepalese? Are modern Tahitians any less Tahitian?

Geographically, Tahiti lies on a latitude just south of La Paz, Bolivia, a longitude over 500 miles east of Honolulu, and is a 750-mile sail to the SSW of the Marquesas.

Tahiti is the largest island in the French Polynesian island group known as the Society Islands, which are believed to have gotten their name from Captain Cook in honor of his sponsor, the Royal Geographical Society.

The Society Islands contain two subgroups: the Iles du Vent, or Windward Islands, and the Iles Sous de Vent ("islands under the wind"), or Leeward Islands. The former includes Tahiti, Moorea, Tetiaroa, and Maiao; the latter are about 80 miles northwest of Tahiti and include Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora-Bora. Though to the northwest, the prevailing southwesterlies put them downwind of Tahiti.

All of the Society Islands are of volcanic origin and all have fringing reefs that are "spotted" with "motus," or small, low, sandy islets with palm trees and postcard-white beaches. Between the reefs and the center's volcanic main island are lagoons of aqua water.

Marlon Brando and Tarita, his Tahitian wife, own Tetiaroa, which is a coral reef with small motus that lies about 40 miles north of Tahiti. After working on the second film version of Mutiny on the Bounty, Brando married Tarita and bought the island.

Tetiaroa has a small hotel, and there are boats in Papeete harbor that take tourists on two-day excursions to see the birds and fish. There is no pass into the lagoon and itís private property, so very few yachts go there.

Some of the most beautiful anchorages in the world exist within Society Island's lagoons. I was fortunate enough to find a few --- a few perfect locations, on perfect days, where Otter became the exact center of an endless, perfect universe.

On reflection, I recognize there are multiple centers of the universe, and, like green flashes at sunset, one encounters them under certain conditions that almost always come together unexpectedly.

These centers can shift, and are personal: what is a center for me may not be for the person two feet away in a different mental state.

Once, for a full five minutes one late afternoon outside a small, neighborhood Italian deli surrounded by the smells of prosciutto, provolone, and fresh bread, a street in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn on a hill overlooking New York harbor became a center of the universe.

Another center lies near Seaflower Reef, between New London, Connecticut and Fishers Island, New York. There, on a summer afternoon, the waves, wind, clouds, and sun converged around Aurora, my Pierson-30 sailboat, and suspended us in its perfect center for a half-an-hour as we sailed in perfect rhythmic harmony.

Our images of those locations stay etched clearly in memory forever.

French Polynesia has its share of these centers.

_____________________________________________________________________

Aboard the yacht Otter
Opua, New Zealand
December 1999

Dear Friends and E-mail Family,

I arrived in Papeete, Tahiti, the capital and largest city in French Polynesia, about 8:30 a.m. Sunday, July 11. The harbor has two areas for yachts, one is along the yacht quay, which is right downtown and across from the main shopping areas. Those aboard the yachts at the quay usually step right off their boats or use a short plank to get ashore.

Just to the west of the quay is a long stretch of shoreline with a black sand beach and trees behind the beach. Yachts drop their anchors and back in to within 30 to 70 feet of shore and run two sternlines off at 45į angles to trees, rocks, or the occasional bollards, then use their dinghy to get on and off the boats.

I found an opening between boats on the end of the beach area closest to the quay, tying lines ashore from Otterís stern, pointing her bow out toward the sea we had just crossed.

Three blocks away is the only McDonaldís in French Polynesia, doing a booming business. I am struck that the people who frequent the McDonaldís here look exactly the same as the clientele in the States, just a bit more tanned. It must be an effect of the food on physiognomy: soon the entire world will all look like middle-class Americans!

Except for McDonaldís, there is surprisingly little American commercialization here Ė no K-Marts, as in St. Croix and St. Thomas, no KFCís, no TCBYís, no Wendyís or Burger Kings.

Not surprisingly, though, there is a strong French flavor to everything. Not being a purist, later I will occasionally have an ice cream sundae at McDonaldís in the late afternoons while I write in my journal.

The following are excerpts from the "Log of the Otter."

We are all on the journey,

Brec

______________________________________________________________________________

Sunday, July 11 Ė

After calling Sandy and having a great and animated conversation, I visit with Pepper and Jody aboard Lolita, their 63í wooden ketch. I havenít seen them since we went through the Panama Canal together and anchored in Balboa. Pepper is an ex-yacht-broker for Moorings in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and Jody was a nurse. Their plan is to sail around the world in five or six years.

They are moored along the beach, too, a few boats closer to town. Lolita is spacious and homey and their living room salon is huge -- I can stretch out both arms to the fingertips and not touch walls!

We catch up on what weíve done and seen since Panama; they show me video footage of storms and the volcanic craters they visited on horseback in the Galapagos.

Pepper barbecues big US-style hamburgers with lettuce, tomato, and onions. His stainless-steel outboard barbecue grill recalls the omnipresent shrines where male American householders continue to make burnt offerings to the Gods of Suburbia. Within the cult of the American hamburger, Pepperís are some of the best!

This first afternoon in Papeete is warm with sunlight sparkling on the water. From Otter as the sun sets I can see the purple outline of Moorea beyond the harbor. Iím living in a postcard world.

Later Pepper and Jody and I walk to the "roulottes" and get an ice cream. A treat after seven days at sea!

The roulottes are a unique Tahitian experience. They are small custom vans that pull into the public parking lot near the cruise ship wharf. There are 40 or 50 of them, and they arrive and park between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.

They lift hinged sides and backs that become roofs, then set up stools around the counters and fire up grills and hibachis. They are decorated with small illuminated signs and flashing arrows; the centers of the vans hold the cooks and servers.

One, the "Boulle Rouge," is a fancy crepe roulotte with a rotating, internally-illuminated red plastic ball on top and a white-uniformed French crepe chef, whose elan and style with the crepe batter tool on the hot plate rivals the pizza-dough throwers of New York.

The food the roulottes serve runs from Chinese to fish, steaks, pizza, crepes, and ice cream. Their prices are generally a third of the price of a restaurant meal and they draw large crowds, which start arriving at dusk, between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m.

The lights, the fires, the smoke, the smells, the movement of people in the carnival-like atmosphere leaves a deep impression as the light fades to dark -- all is bracketed by trees at the edge of the parking area and backdropped by the purple mountains rising behind the trees.

Filled with talk and ice cream, and flooded with images of Papeete, on this first day ashore I return to Otter and sleep.

Monday, July 12 Ė

7:00 a.m. Wake to heavy rain and close the ports, a little too late. The rush hour traffic on Pomare Boulevard just behind the trees along the shore is loud. Itís chilly. I donít want to get up.

Clean boat all morning and make space for Sandyís luggage.

11:30 a.m. I go to check in with immigration, customs, and the port captain. All offices are in the same building by the cruise ship wharf. Because there are so many yachts arriving just before the Bastille Day celebrations on Wednesday, there is a line outside the immigration office.

The sun is out and hot and I wait sitting in the shade with dozens of other cruisers. It takes 2 Ĺ hours to get in. During that time I talk to Carolyn from Perky Senior. She and her husband are licensed captains and were professional skippers on private yachts, mostly in the Bahamas.

She tells me of their three-day excursion by plane to Easter Island. It sounds terribly exotic and if I can get the same inexpensive fare Iím tempted to go as well. (When I find later the fares have gone up and I decide not to go, I tell myself again there will be many places Iíll pass and not be able to visit. Even if I had two lifetimes I couldnít see them all.)

Here, finally, I need to pay my bond, the one I explained earlier -- the French want to be able to ship out any non-French citizens who may become boatless or otherwise overstay their visa, at no expense to the local government.

I go to the Bank of Tahiti and pay $850 plus a $30 processing fee. They give me a bank letter that says Iíve deposited the money with them. The $850 bond would cover my deportation airline ticket to Hawaii.

I then need to go to the post office to get a $30 stamp. More lines and waiting at each stop. By the time I return to immigration itís too late to get in again to complete formalities, and theyíre holding my passport.

I still have customs and the port captainís office to see yet. Itís taken me all afternoon! I thought Panama had a Kafka-esque bureaucracy, but at least there, with Rudyís help, it was done in two hours!

As Iím getting ready to leave the immigrations office area, an Italian woman in her early 70ís joins our group of cruisers. Sexy and eccentric, she tells us stories of her 30 years travelling through the South Pacific Islands by small freighter and how she loves sunsets and tries never to miss one. She leaves us to find a spot to watch the sun lower behind Moorea, a sunset even more spectacular, with golden rays, than last night.

I buy flowers at the market for Sandyís arrival tomorrow Ė they fill the boat with a tropical fragrance. A radio station is playing Tahitian songs. The romantic haunting melodies reminding me of Polynesian-language country-western.

Tuesday, July 13 --

4:00 a.m. Up and take cold shower at the shower building on the yacht quay. Nowhere in French Polynesia do I find hot showers. I get used to it and numb my extremities slowly until I can stand, head and back, under the chill water.

Itís dark. I find the "le Truck" stop and ride out to Faaía (pronounced Fa-ah-ah) Airport. The signs say Sandyís 5:35 a.m. flight is delayed 35 minutes.

6:30 a.m. Sandy comes through the arrivals doors dwarfed behind a pushcart full of very large bags. I put a flower lei around her neck and we both break down, in public, blocking traffic -- itís a mess.

At a small, round, white table next to the arrivals area we have coffee and croissants and talk nonstop for two hours without moving. What a great feeling to talk about home, get news and gossip, and start to catch up!

Finally we get a taxi into town. Sandy stands on the bank in the gray morning as I struggle with the large bags, one at a time, into the dinghy onto the boat. The largest and heaviest one is full of spare parts, boat equipment, books, and mail.

As soon as weíre both aboard it gets dark and starts to rain hard. Sandy takes some Sturgeron. I make tea and begin opening mail; Sandy falls asleep exhausted and I read mail all afternoon.

The boat feels full.

Wednesday, July 14 --

"Quatorze Julliet" -- Bastille Day. First things first: Sandy cuts off the beard that Iíve been growing since Panama.

Then to watch the parade with Pepper and Jody. What a dud. Itís over in 15-20 minutes and only has small contingents of the French military and civil services Ė a few fire trucks and itís over. No floats, no Polynesians, no dancing in the streets.

When Sandy and I visited France, the celebrations were day-long, the parades magnificent, and in Seillans, a small mountain village in Provence, there was music and dancing in the town square until 4:00 the next morning.

I find out later that Polynesia, being a French colonial territory and not exactly independent, doesnít celebrate "French independence." Itís celebrated as a month-long festival, usually on weekends, of Polynesian culture with singing and dance exhibitions at large, temporary stadiums.

So Bastille Day passes almost unnoticed. What was our rush to be here?

Thursday, July 15 --

Sandy takes a shower with me. She hates the cold water! She never takes another one. Instead she takes sponge baths in the cockpit in midday heat.

She explores and shops Papeete while I finish my check-in process with immigration. It takes me almost the full day. I tell them that if the sped up their entry process, I could be out pumping more money into the economy with my wife!

Friday, July 16 --

I spend another morning at the customs and port captainís offices. Then I meet Sandy and walk around town and shop; Sandy looks at black pearls.

Saturday July 17 --

We rent a car with Pepper and Jody and drive around Tahiti. A road follows the perimeter and our first stop is an overlook high above Matavai Bay where Cookís Endeavour anchored on his first visit. Just to the right is Point Venus, which is where part of Mel Gibsonís Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed.

Iíve been reading my Lonely Planet Guide to French Polynesia since the Galapagos, so I became the tour director, intoning in a deep voice the historical highlights as we zip by.

We stop at a blowhole with surf spouting white spray, geyser-like, high into the air, with deep thud and whoosh.

At a beach nearby I bottle some black sand for the grandchildren's collection. Then to a legendary waterfall, which is a short walk from the road.

Tahiti is actually two almost circular islands connected by an isthmus. Tahiti Nui, the large island, and Tahiti Iti, or little Tahiti. There is a view from a mountaintop in Tahiti Iti that looks northwest toward the taller mountains in the center of Tahiti Nui wreathed in cloud. To the left and right below us are the lagoons that surround the isthmus. Another Kodak moment in our tour.

Travelling in groups has pluses and minuses. The pluses here are shared car expenses and friends we enjoy being with. The minuses are the compromises. For example, not everyone wanted to stop for four hours at the Gauguin museum! In fact, Iím the only one. So, we compromise on an hour.

On this run through a quirky and unique museum, Iím struck by a number of things. First, the objective of this museum is unique. Most of the guides pan it because it has no Gauguins ("A Gauguin museum with no Gauguins? How can that be?"). It has only one small original drawing, a few sketch book pages, and some woodcut prints; all the rest are reproductions.

This museum doesnít present Gauguinís "Art" in the sanctimoniously hushed-tone, "Shhh, and donít touch!" low-light, white-walled, big-roomed, uniformed-guarded, highly-insured, multi-million dollar, "Youíre in the presence of greatness," hallowed ground, reverential Louis Kahn and Frank Lloyd Wright-spaced, impossible for us commoners to fathom, atmosphere that reinforces any inner insecurities about ever understanding or comprehending the greatness of these untouchable geniuses while reminding us that our Ďoh-so-ordinary, pedestrian, gray lives without song or spirití are unfit subjects for the Titans of Art. (Man, is that an attitude or what!)

But in this wonderful little place I start to see, as if being introduced to Gauguin by a close relative who lived with him, his history, his parentage, his environment, his references, his direct copying from other art.

There is a small set of photographic reproductions of his work arranged on a wall. One group is in chronological sequence, another set is grouped by museum Ė who owned what pieces Ė fascinating!

The man starts to come through clearly Ė in his environment, in his setting. A much deeper appreciation for who he was, and the profound influence heís had comes into focus.

Gauguinís blending of the Polynesia he found with his personal quest for paradise resulted in images that have defined, more than anything else, how we view this part of the world. I see the thin-tailed dogs he painted, the Polynesian womenís gestures and facial expressions. The landscapes: they are around me still Ė his paintings are real!

Back to the car. After a few more Lonely Planet stops, we return the car.

That evening Sandy and I attend one of the dance exhibitions at the stadium Ė an amazing blend of male and female energy in patterns of choreographed power.

Some of the sexual vitality that greeted Bougainville and Cook can still be seen in the impossibly fast hip-shaking of the women and foot-slapping, knee-knocking of the men in their bright-colored costumes that would put Las Vegas to shame.

There is a large, mostly Polynesian, audience. Each dance group has its own musical group. The musicians, singers, and drummers are also costumed and, though off stage, can be a show by themselves, with flash drumming techniques.

This is what July celebrations are about in Tahiti.

Sunday, July 18 --

Attended church service at the Paofai temple, the Protestant L.M.S. church, the "pink-one-on-the-beach" church.

This must be sober Sunday: the women are wearing blue dresses and white blouses with white hats, the men, blue pants and white shirts.

The church divides into about four singing groups (there is no choir) and each group in turn sings a hymn, with the men singing low strong harmony to the womenís very high-pitched melody.

The building holds about 600 people, plus a balcony on three sides that holds another 200 or so. Tourists in the balcony are taking videos and photographs. This seems to be part of the experience; no one seems to notice.

Monday, July 19

Sandy and I sail the 12 miles to Moorea. We enter and anchor in Cookís Bay, wondering why we didnít try to get here sooner: the bay is surrounded by serrated mountains that rise up dramatically on three sides; the clouds fly across their tops. I take deep breaths and repeat quietly, "Oh man . . . Ohhh, maaan! . . ."

Sandy met a couple on the flight to Tahiti who were coming to stay for a few weeks on their crewed yacht, a large schooner-rigged vessel named Mermaid. The owners, Tom and Sylvia Collins, are from Chicago. Sheís an art teacher and heís a real estate developer. As Otter motored past them before anchoring, Sylvia called out and invited us for drinks later.

The drinks turned into a dinner ashore at a little Italian restaurant. Besides Tom and Sylvia and their two guests, the crew came, too. The crew, Captain Jack, his wife (the cook), their daughter (the first mate and deckhand), and Chad (the engineer), brings the yacht to various destinations. Tom and Sylvia fly in for as long as they can, then fly home until Mermaid is in another location for them to meet up.

I tell them itís pretty much Sandyís and my story, though ours is on a smaller scale. Captain Jack tells about a generator going out on the long, hot passage to the Marquesas. They only had enough power to run either the freezer for ice in their drinks or the autopilot to steer the boat. The crew decided to stand watches and hand-steer rather than forgo the ice in their drinks.

Tom generously picks up the tab and surprised that Iíve no fishing gear tells me to come by and heíll outfit me the next day from his stock.

Tuesday, July 20

A laid-back day. I do a watercolor for Mermaid, and Tom supplies me with fishing gear and knot-tying instructions.

Wednesday, July 21

We walk to the Belvedere, a scenic overlook. A long, hot, sweaty, constant uphill walk. We reach the top and the view is stunning: sacred Mount Rotui directly ahead, Cookís bay to the right, and Opunohu Bay to the left. Joined by all the other tourists whoíve driven up, we snap away and trade cameras. "Here, can you take a picture of us with our ĎSay cheese!í grins at yet another scenic spot?"

A young couple from San Diego who are on their honeymoon take pity on Sandy and offer to drive us down again. Itís a good thing, because it starts to pour rain.

Later, in town, Sandy shops and finds some beautiful black pearls at a good price. We meet David and Jay on Jaga II out of Seattle, and the family on Attitude, Charlie, Debbie and their children Colin (13) and Alicia (10) and we go out to the Bali Hai Hotel for the Polynesian Dance night.

After a half-hour performance with the grass skirts moving so fast they become a blur, the dancers go into the audience to pick partners. The chicken-legged white guys get up with the extremely flexible young female dancers and try to imitate the Polynesian male dancers.

Itís pretty funny, but Iím up there knocking my knees together as fast as I can while moving my hand and face in the coordinated sunrise sunset gestures Iíve watched them do. Itís like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. I get by a first cut of the duds who are pulled away, and though Iím not the white-guy winner, I make it to the semi-finals, at least beating out the accountants on vacation from Minnesota.

The bay is dark and filled with reflected stars as we dinghy home. Iím happy to be sharing it.

Thursday, July 22 Ė

We get underway for Huahine, the nearest island in the Leeward Group and an 87-mile overnight sail. The sky is clear and the wind is moderate at about 15 knots off the starboard quarter. At 8:00 p.m. I start to nap and Sandy stands watch till 1:30 a.m. Iím glad she let me sleep.

Friday, July 23 --

I take the graveyard shift and read all night in the cockpit while Sandy sleeps.

Iím reading Cape Horn Ė One Manís Dream, One Womanís Nightmare, a fascinating story of a couple rounding the Horn, kind of. Iím interested in how people write about their sailing experiences, as I intend to put my thoughts and illustrations into a book on my return, and am studying how itís done.

The authorís husband in this book doesnít come off very well; I keep saying out loud, "You idiot!" or, "Man, was that dumb!" I also talked to the TV at home.

The wind is light and the motion is gentle. Sandy wakes and joins me at 9:00 a.m. The wind dies to nothing, so at 11:00 a.m. we turn on the engine and motor around the north end of the island. We enter the pass through the reef a few hours later, anchoring in 30í of aqua water just north of the town of Fare.

It is a bright, hot afternoon with the flat water riffled by a light breeze. I do a few quick sketches and swim off the boat -- the first time since the Galapagos.

After cockpit showers we go ashore in the dinghy. Sandy pokes around the shops while I clear in with the Gendarmes. I get the impression Iím interrupting them unnecessarily, like no one else bothers to clear in. So why am I? Because my cruising guides say I should.

My first question to the officer behind the desk is "Bon jour, monsieur. Parlez vous Anglais?" He replies, "Non. Il est Polynesia Francais! Parlez Francaise ici!"

So I struggle along, letting him know that I spent 3 Ĺ weeks in preparation for this, listening to my French tapes while crossing the Pacific. In rapid order I tell him to close the window, open the door, and sell me a ticket for the next train to Paris. Then I count from one to ten and ask directions to the toilet. I can tell heís impressed, and amused! He stamps a few things and waves me out, smiling.

Sandy later tells me that at a meeting at her French-Canadian paper companyís sales office in Montreal, she referred to their head office as the "tete bureau." Evidently thatís not the real phrase, and her French-Canadian coworkers looked blank until her meaning came through; then they all collapsed laughing.

I meet Joe Pirro at a small souvenir and gift shop in town. Joe is American from New Jersey. His wife is French and they have lived in Polynesia since the sixties.

When they first came to Huahine they lived by collecting fruit and fishing a few hours a day, just like Gauguin dreamed of doing. Then the first child came and they set up a little street stand a couple of days a week to sell crafts they made to the few tourists. Things kept going and they have come to have a real business.

Joe looks thin and dark and like he hasnít worn much more than a pair of shorts and flip-flops since he arrived.

I show him my sketches and he tells me Iíve drawn "the woman." "Huahine," he says, means "pregnant woman."

We go outside his shop, he points to the hills, and there she is, almost alive: the hills to the southwest of the harbor appear exactly as a womanís head, a raised breast, and a pregnant belly with protruding navel. Iím amazed I didnít see it when I was drawing it.

A freighter comes into the main dock where weíve tied our dinghy. Weíre asked to move it over to the beach area while they unload the freighter.

Sandy has heard a lot of local theft stories, mostly about dinghies and motors going missing, and she doesnít like the way the local men hanging out on the waterfront are eyeing us.

I tell her that my poor 12-year-old battered and duct-taped two-horse motor is not a real prize and that Runcible Spoon, our trusty conveyance, is not really on the list of desirable items either -- almost all other inflatables are bigger and sturdier than Runcible. We find a secluded spot to tie up and have dinner ashore; on our return, Runcible is right where we left her.

In early Tahitian religion, the second-highest god was Hiro, the god of thieves, and stealing things was once considered a test of skill, like a sport or game. In fact, on Captain Cookís first visits he "lost" sextants and scientific instruments that had to be tracked down and reappropriated.

During these visits, the crew found that the women were particularly open to receiving nails in trade for their favors: Cook had to post sentries to prevent the rest of the crew from prying nails out of the shipís hull and decks to use as trade items.

Saturday, July 24 --

Weíre up early. We motor through the pass and set sail for Nao Nao Island, a motu on the reef off the south end of Raiatea. Itís a full dayís sail downwind in sunshine. The day is long and hot. Sandy reads her novels in the shade on the foredeck.; I sketch Tahaa, a smaller island to the north of Raiatea.

As I am sketching I notice that from here, a few hours out of Huahine, the outline of Tahaa looks exactly the same as the Easter Island heads, only lying face up.

A theory comes to me -- I get excited and tell Sandy, who isnít quite as enthused. But the "Brec Morgan Theory of Easter Island Iconography" is born!

The theory stems from this: Most art is derived from nature -- Iíve seen papaya tree stalks that have patterns that look like Marquesan designs on war clubs. The outline of Tahaa suggests a nature-based explanation for the unique shape of the Easter Island heads: they were copying the profile of the island of their ancestors.

Tahitian legends claim that there were great migrations from Faaroa Bay in Raiatea to many other parts of Polynesia, and there is proof, archeologically and linguistically, for this.

The legends also state that Hawaii, the Marquesas, Tuamotus, the Australs, and New Zealand were settled by voyagers on large canoes from Raiatea. Even today some canoe replicas have been built and sailed in the old ways and made surprisingly fast passages, faster in some cases than Otter.

The ancient, large double-canoes with planks between them and houses built on the planking could carry up to 100 people with supplies Ė dogs, chickens, pigs, fruits, vegetables, potted trees Ė enough to start a village on a deserted island.

I believe a canoe set sail from Raiatea headed east, filled with people from a community in Tahaa. After they arrived on Easter Island, miraculously or through skill, each generation gave thanks and paid homage by sculpting and erecting images of their "home-island" god, which took the form of a profile of their islandís image Ė the broad brow, long nose and pursed lips, the bump of chin, then the chest that went into the sea.

The history of Easter Island was lost after 1862 when the Peruvians captured and took away the adult male population of Easter Island, forcing them to dig guano in Peru. The oral tradition from one generation of the next of "rongo-rongo," or "wise men," was broken and the history forever lost. That is, until the "Brec Morgan Theory of Easter Island Iconography" came along!

Itís 4:30 p.m. as we approach the pass between the reef and to the right of Nao Nao Island. There are no buoys of any kind; Iím on high alert as I steer Otter through the center of a calmish patch between large breakers dashing on the reefs to the left and right. Around behind the island in its lee we set our anchor in 27í of clear water. There are only two other boats anchored down aways.

This is our most secluded and lovely spot so far -- a flat sand atoll with coconut palms and scrub brush. I fire up the stove and cook a dinner of spaghetti with clam sauce as the moon rises behind the island.

These are the evenings when it seems most worthwhile Ė the evenings I will remember and would like to return for and attempt to repeat. Deeply peaceful. Soft moonlight. Hot tea in the cockpit. No one nearby. A world for two alone. The soft splash of fish on dark water. A center of the universe.

Sunday, July 25 --

Up early and underway by 7:30 a.m. Itís 47 miles to Bora Bora and Sandy steers as we motor in a flat calm. I set up a sun awning over the cockpit. Glad not to have to steer, I make a pancake breakfast and super-clean-up below. We take sun-warmed water showers in the cockpit.

Because itís Sunday I break out the Hymnal and we sing. Some are real tear-jerkers. We have a real connection as we sing together, not always in tune.

Motoring most of the way, we are at the only pass through the circling reef into Bora Bora by late afternoon. The twin peaks of the central mountains are a beautiful sight as we motor into the lagoon, small green islets to left and right. We bear to the left and pick up a mooring off of the Bora Bora Yacht Club.

Next to us is Comet, a 57í Sparkman Stevens wooden yawl from Stonington, Connecticut, sailed by Howard and Rita Parks. I originally met them in Panama at a dinner on Violet while waiting to transit the Canal. Itís good to see them again.

The four of us, plus Rob, Ritaís brother who is visiting, have dinner at the yacht club. We catch up on passages since Panama and swap stories. Howard speaks fluent French, which helps in ordering dinner. His father was a Marine Corps liaison to the U.N. and when Howard was growing up, the family spoke French at dinner each evening.

Howard managed a boat yard in Noank, Connecticut and was a yacht surveyor; he tells interesting stories of Halsey Herreshoff, a grandson of the legendary Captain Nat Herreshoff of the Bristol, Rhode Island, Herreshoff boatbuilding company, for which my great-grandfather John Brechin was the shop foreman.

Rita and he are both artists. Her work is mostly floral and decorative; his are small oils of sailboats, simple and moody. I show him my sketchbooks and heís encouraged to sketch more.

Monday, July 26 --

Today is cool and rainy; all the tropical colors are lost in the gray mist. Howard says to remember that this is like a good day in New England.

Sandy doesnít feel well and stays aboard all day sleeping and reading. Tomorrow is our eighth wedding anniversary, and I dinghy to town to see if I can get hotel accommodations so we can spend the night ashore in a large room with a real bed and hot showers. (The showers at the yacht club are cold water only.)

The first place I stop is the Top Dive Resort and I get the tour. The rooms are beautiful and brand new, but at $325 per night itís a little steep.

I assume that any other place will be less expensive, so I dinghy across the lagoon to a separate island to investigate the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort and Hotel. They are extremely nice, and give me a tour of the facilities: sailfish and sailing dinghies, snorkel and scuba centers, heated pools, restaurants, bars, and walking trails. There are individual units on stilts over the water, complete with glass coffee tables that look down into the water on the coral and the fish, all illuminated by underwater lights, plus private stairs to private swim platforms.

Itís another world from Otter and would be a memorable anniversary event, but at $500 to $850 per night, itís a bit out of range. I could buy a dinghy and outboard motor for the same price!

Back on Otter we decide to rent a car the next day and tour the island, hoping to find an economy unit on the other side of the island.

Tuesday, July 27 --

I walk into town to rent a car. They have all been reserved so I get a "fun car," the second-to-last one available.

Itís a little egg on wheels, with a small lawnmower engine pushing one rear wheel with trainer wheels on each side. It has no reverse and no roof: you have to push it backwards out of parking spots and bring an umbrella for the rain.

I pick up Sandy at the yacht club and we set off with our Lonely Planet guide. The U.S. military established the first airport in French Polynesia in Bora Bora during the Second World War and had a large presence here. But old concrete pillboxes stuck in scrub brush on the sides of mountains are not Sandyís thing, so no gun emplacements or World War II stuff.

We have lunch at a small restaurant overlooking the lagoon; I sketch while she reads. It reminds me of being at home except the view is exotic, the menu is in French, and the waitresses are young, Polynesian, and beautiful.

The rest of the day we ride and explore and take photos and check out the beaches. In the evening we trade the "fun" car for a small passenger van and pick up Sandyís luggage from Otter, so we can leave from the hotel to catch a 5:00 a.m. ferry to the airport.

We have a romantic dinner at a small restaurant over the water facing the sunset and then go back to the last motel room available in Bora Bora. Itís still double what a room in the U.S. would be, but I negotiated the rate down somewhat because the hot water heater is broken. So again, we have cold showers.

But the view from the picture window at the foot of the bed looks across moonlit water framed by waving palm trees with the sound of small waves on the sand.

Wednesday, July 28 --

On the ferry ride to the airport as the sun comes up we watch a video of Polynesia made by the Tourism Bureau. Weíve seen much of whatís on the video but these filmmakers are expert at getting the right lighting and the right angle.

It all looks bigger than life. As its sound track plays, I feel our experiences have been less intense and colorful, with our time between the perfect moments filled with the sweat of hot days and the dust from unpaved roads and the dried salt on skin from spray over the bow and stretches of daily boat-keeping chores.

I remind myself that TV is not life, itís an abstract from life. I remember that Robert Frost said the job of art is to "clean the dirt off the potato."

The video is art. I feel, as Sandyís small plane leaves for Tahiti, that Iím left with a dull potato.

Thursday, July 29 --

Clean boat and rearrange the forepeak so I can sleep there when Todd arrives on Saturday.

I talk to Guy (pronounced "Gee," with a hard "g"), the owner of the Bora Bora Yacht Club, about painting him a new sign---at no charge. His ex-son-in-law and a helper have finished putting on a new roof and have made a sign I know I can improve on. Guy agrees.

Friday, July 30 --

Bernard, the carpenter, takes down the sign, cuts the ends, and repaints the background, then makes two more boards for the signs Iíll letter.

More boat chores and provisioning.

I set up the folding bicycle to make my trips to town easier (town is about a mile and a half away).

Saturday, July 31 --

The airport is on a separate large motu about six miles from the main town of Vaitape. The town has a large ferry dock and the ferries ply back and forth following the airplane schedules. Iím at the airport by 6:15 a.m. and Toddís airplane lands, finally, at 8:15.

Todd and I have been close friends since 7th grade in Guilford, Connecticut. My family had just moved into town and on my first day in a classroom full of new faces, Todd sat next to me and leaned over to say, "Hi, Iím Todd Peterson. Iím new here, too."

Through the 40 following years weíve stayed in touch. And each time we meet or speak itís like no time at all has passed. Iím always surprised to see a few more wrinkles on a face that remains in memory as, at most, 16 years old.

I remind Todd that we were the same height when we met. He grew to 6í6" over the next six years while I stayed at 5í6". Itís hard for me to think of our height difference until I see photos of us standing next to each other. Again, my image was fixed when we were young.

In the phone calls that preceded his arrival, he asked how large my bunk was in the main cabin. I told him it was big enough, I was sure. He wanted me to measure it. I did and told him it was 8í2" Ė more than enough, unless heíd grown some.

Unsure still, he talked to my brother John by e-mail just to get another opinion. John e-mailed back, "Todd Ė you have to remember that Brec is a small man on a small boat who has been trying to impress tall women since his teens -- may your luck be better than theirs!"

A great line, but I do know how to read a tape measure, and Todd did find the bunk on my tiny boat to be more than adequate.

Todd had taught English in the school systems in American Samoa for two years after graduating from Dartmouth in 1969, and had played basketball on the Samoan team. Heíd traveled to Tahiti and Moorea for some inter-island games and was looking forward to returning there.

I spotted him immediately as he loped into the airport. Big grins and a lot of back-slapping later, weíre on the ferry ride to town.

Todd snaps away with his camera and tells me how strange it is that only a few hours ago heíd left chilly, damp, and gray Seattle and is now stepping into another world -- French, flowered, hot, and surrounded with rich, deep color. I tell him todayís a good day, and that a few days ago it looked like Seattle.

Like Sandy, heís tired from the trip and spends the afternoon sleeping while I work on the sign and rent an extra bike for him.

That evening we go to the last event of the July Festival. In Bora Bora they have constructed a large stadium, but the bleacher seats are on one side only. The other three sides are roped off and people can stand, without paying, to watch the performances.

The performance area is soft, light-tan sand and as the dancers perform, especially the men with their strong kicking gestures, the sand goes flying, adding a dramatic element to the dance that wasnít present in Papeete.

The one group that performs changes costumes three times. There are about 30 male and 30 female dancers weaving rhythmically through each otherís lines to the unique singing and drumming of the offstage musicians.

Each dance group has its star performers and this groupís stars are spectacular. The male dancer is like a rooster, kicking and spraying sand everywhere. The female dancer, truly the most beautiful of all the dancers, shakes her hips so fast her grass skirt blurs, yet her upper body stays motionless except for slow and graceful arm gestures.

When the thunder of drums and movement subsides, the emcee says we can have our photo taken with the dancers. I feel very shy and donít have the courage to break into the group forming around the star dancers. So, a photo-op passes, along with the lifetime of stories I would have invented around it.

Todd and I bicycle back to the yacht club in the dark.

Sunday, August 1 --

The yacht club has its ĎTaneí and ĎVahineí shower stalls right next to each other just beyond the restaurant. As weíre showering, I tell Todd about the "Under the Boardwalk" song I sang across the Pacific. He remembers it, too, and we belt out the two verses and chorus a few times around -- singing always sounds good in enclosed spaces. Itís the Sixties again!

In town we attend a Protestant church service Ė the visitors are all ushered into a set of pews on the right side of the church. The local women all wear brilliantly flowered dresses and elaborate woven hats. The minister speaks in Tahitian-French and a little English, welcoming his visitors -- the first church in French Polynesia to do so.

The singing is divided into groups, including some distinctive Tahitian songs. One song that the entire church sings is "Onward Christian Soldiers," in French. I sing along in English, not loud enough to be interrupting the French.

Some of the children who are in the rows near us see me and think that itís funny to watch me sing in English. I canít remember the second or third verses, so I sing the first one over and over Ė the children are amused through the whole song.

The minister gives a sermon in French about the Loaves and Fishes. I try to follow it and catch a few phrases.

We have ice cream at the small patisserie across from the church after the service.

I work on the layout of the sign in the afternoon while Todd and I talk and talk.

Monday, August 2 --

I continue working on the sign; Todd writes postcards.

A number of boats I know come in: Attitude, Jaga II, Comet, Typhoon Princess, and Lolita. Itís hard to get any work done with the constant flow of boat acquaintances going by.

Todd and I have lunch with John from Breakiní Even, a red 28ísloop, very simply outfitted. Johnís a single-hander from Freemantle, Australia, who is on his last legs to home and completion of a solo circumnavigation.

John says he canít believe heís in Bora Bora, the island heís dreamed of since childhood. He says he keeps pinching himself to be sure itís real.

We discover we have both run five marathons, so we decide to form the "Solo Circumnavigator and Five-time Marathoner Club." We are the charter members, and may be the only two eligible for membership. We both drink to our new club.

John says he was in the Australian Army and served in Vietnam -- he considers himself to be a good soldier. We talk about the war.

Iím reminded how deep the impressions of Vietnam are on our generation: John is still angry at the demonstrators who threw red paint on him when he returned from Vietnam Ė with friends of his dead, "for nothing," he says.

I hear myself telling him my story, as if it were about someone I knew in the past. I never demonstrated, but I was strongly against the war. I softened my stance toward the soldiers who went as they returned and their stories were told -- I feel weíre brothers separated by circumstance.

It feels odd somehow to be discussing the war as the sun sets gold and lavender across a beautiful lagoon in Bora Bora. Paradise, paradise . . . yet, as has been said, wherever you go, there you are.

Tuesday, August 3 --

Todd goes snorkeling with Pepper and Jody from Lolita; they take a dinghy out to the reefs while I continue working on the sign.

(Later, when I meet Pepper again in Opua, New Zealand, he shows me a photograph of a yacht club sign that a yachtie signwriter made Ė he says this guy only took six hours to make the sign, and "you took three days!" I remind him that I had a lot of company and had to keep up my end of numerous conversations, so my on-task time is distorted and I should be given a handicap!)

I talk to Francis, a young Polynesian workman installing the thatched roof on the yacht club. Because Iím American, he opens up and tells me how bad the French are, how they are prejudiced against the Polynesians, about their nuclear testing, how they control the politics and the money, and how some Polynesians would prefer America to come in and run things. He sees Hawaiians as rich cousins through their connection to the U.S.

Later on I hear the French side, which is that the Polynesians have lived for centuries without having to do any real work. There is a French expression that describes their attitude about the work ethic of Polynesians: "For them the ground is too far."

Both of these are extremes, and I see many situations where the working relationship between the two cultures is warm and convivial.

Later I show Guy a sketch of a Polynesian war canoe that I want to cut out of plywood and paint as the top for the signs. His response is that this is a yacht club and heíd prefer to see a yacht.

Even though I think the crab-claw sailing canoe will fit his thatched-roof, Polynesian-theme restaurant better, I acquiesce and make a cutout of Otter, a 27í Pacific Seacraft Ďyachtí, instead. Guy is happy.

Otter now tops the Bora Bora Yacht Club sign.

Wednesday, August 4 --

A group of us install the completed signs and I take a lot of photographs. Guyís daughter and grandchildren, who are visiting from France, join in the photos. I think I might be able to write an article for a sign magazine: "Sign Painter Leaves Company to Daughter to Sail the World; Winds up Making Signs in Bora Bora."

Todd and I slip the mooring and motor west, then south, around the island. In the early sunny afternoon we thread our way in shallow water between coral heads, Todd in the bow yelling "Left!" or "Right!" as we go.

We find an area of clear water 30í deep behind the small Islet of Topua and drop anchor in what is to be the most beautiful location of all.

Todd goes for a swim and I make some sketches and clean the boat. While on deck, I see a swimmer, only the snorkel and fins showing, heading straight for Otter.

He doesnít lift his head up, and I watch as the snorkel finally reaches the anchor chain dropping off the bowsprit. A hand reaches up and holds the chain Ė Iím curious about whatís happening and Iíve walked forward to watch.

Finally a head bobs up. The swimmer says, "We have a lot to talk about; I had a Pacific Seacraft just like this one. Why donít you come over at sundown for a rum punch? My name is Douglas."

I agree and he turns and snorkels away. An odd introduction, but many of us singlehanders are odd in our ways.

Just before sunset, Todd and I dinghy over. Douglas has a 28í Bristol Channel cutter, Calliste. She is a beautiful, small, blue-water cruiser; he keeps her in immaculate condition.

Iíve brought some crackers and cheese to add to the drinks and as he serves up the drinks from below, I bite into a cracker and some cheese Iíve sliced. The cracker makes crumbs, which I sweep off my lap into the scuppers in the cockpit. I look, and to my horror realize that the scuppers are immaculate -- not a hair not a spec of dust; it looks like it just came out of a showroom.

I hastily try to brush the crumbs out of sight before Douglas comes up from below. The rum punches that he serves are extraordinarily potent, and we wind up talking for hours. Douglas was a finish carpenter near Bug Sur, California and would do the interiors of very up-scale homes. Heís a master of detail and it shows.

He speaks highly of the Pacific Seacraft 27-footers, Otterís line, but felt the Bristol Channel cutter was just that much sturdier. After a tour, I agree. I also remember that in the Soundings "Boats for Sale" listings they were double the price of Otter for one foot more boat, so I may have gotten a Buick while he got a Rolls Royce.

Our conversation drifts into adhesives, construction techniques, and lightning protection and Todd drifts up into the cockpit to contemplate the stars, leaving us to our interminable technical talk.

Thursday, August 5 --

The boat is still, on glass-calm water, as we wake: a perfect day.

To the west, about an eighth of a mile off, is the fringing reef with its rushing sound and a thin white line of surf separating the aqua lagoon from the cobalt-blue ocean beyond.

To the east a few hundred feet is the dark green Islet of Topua with coconut palms rising behind a white-sand beach and hills behind the palm trees. And behind Topua are the bluing mountain peaks of Bora Bora.

There is no wind this morning, or all day. Itís hot. The surface of the water is so unblemished it seems to disappear.

As the sun rises higher, I look over the rail and catch my breath: 30í below I can see the ridges in the sand bottom. I can see the chain go forward then turn under and behind us to the anchor -- there isnít enough wind to move the boat on its chain.

I see Otterís shadow below on the sand, slightly off to one side -- a perfect cutout with a dark thread that connects it to the chain and keeps it from drifting away. I feel like the boat is floating in air, 30í above the moon.

Todd, when he jumps in for a swim, says that he had no idea how far heíd drop before he would enter the water.

On this perfect day there is a Zen quality to all activity, and my cleaning chores are held to higher standards this morning after the visit to Calliste.

Transfer 16 gallons of water from jugs to the tank. Run engine to top batteries. Clean the water line. Put out water and towels for showers. Prepare lunch of tuna fish salad and lemonade from the last of the lemons from Fatu Hiva six weeks ago.

In the afternoon I swim and make three water-scene watercolors. Todd and I talk about changes in our lives and how we both desire to bring creativity to a central position, he in his writing and story-telling, me in my artwork.

The day passes, effortlessly encapsulated, out of time, like a scene in a glass egg.

Friday, August 6 --

Raise anchor and motor around the north of Bora Bora, then down the eastern side and inside the lagoon following the channel markers. The day is sunny and bright, the colors more intense than Iíve ever seen. I take dozens of photos, hoping for those Ďpostcardí shots.

(Later, though, when I develop the shots in Papeete at "Photo Gauguin" (naturally), they are all washed out. I was using an 800-speed film Iíd bought on special. Too late I find 800 film is for very low light levels and indoor use. I still have a lot to learn about basic photography!)

After threading our way through narrow channels and around coral patches, we finally anchor at Piti uu Tai, a small islet just off Matira Point on the southern tip of Bora Bora. In the Cruising Guide to Tahitia and the French Society Islands, written by Marcia Davock and published in 1985, she describes this location as her favorite spot.

She and her husband spent up to two weeks there in the eighties and never saw another boat. The anchorage is just as beautiful as she says, but now there are Polynesian-village-over-the-water-hotel-huts jutting way out into the lagoon on the neighboring islet, and there are two other boats nearby.

Marcia also says she saw only a few other yachts cruising the lagoons around Bora Bora. During the season now, there are many hundreds; there is almost no place one can go without seeing another yacht, or ten.

Weíre anchored by mid-afternoon. Todd puts on his fins and mask, then snorkels ashore. He finds a clearing behind the beach, and in the center of some discarded coconut husks he discovers a coconut husking-stick, a sapling about 2-Ĺ" in diameter cut off about 3í above the ground and sharpened to a point.

I would not have recognized this tool, but Todd, having lived in American Samoa for two years, does. The coconut that he swam back with from Topua Island the day before swims ashore again.

He holds the coconut in both hands and brings it down hard on the point of the stick, piercing the husk. More thumping on the stick pries the husk into sections that can be torn away from the inner shell.

Todd pierces one of the coconutís brown, depressed eyes and we drink the milk. Then we crack the coconut shell in half with rocks to get at the meat. All very primitive, but it provides a tasty afternoon snack.

Pepper from Lolita shows up as Todd and I are swimming back to Otter. Earlier in the day I had spoken with him on the radio and told him we were low on bottled water, which Todd is drinking to avoid any bugs. Pepper offered to run us down a few bottles, saying heíd wanted to see the south end of the island anyway.

He has a large inflatable with a powerful outboard, and has bumped his way over a few coral patches on the way here, just avoiding serious damage.

Heís proudly wearing his new flowered pareu, a wrap-around cloth skirt that the locals wear. And, though Pepperís Polish-American, he sounds like all good kilt-wearing Scotsmen when he brags thereís nothing beneath it.

He stays for a soda and then tools off at 30 knots to Lolita.

Lolita, despite the common expectation, is not named after Vladimir Nabokovís novel of the same name.

Rather, when Pepper originally formed a partnership with a friend to buy the boat in Ft. Lauderdale, the friend put up the $500, which was all the money they had between them, and Pepper said, "OK -- weíre partners, but Iím the captain," to which his friend said, "OK but I want to name the boat --- after my mother."

Pepper groaned, thinking, "Itís going to be christened the Dorothy Hildegarde Rosenblatt or something!" But his friend said, "Lolita." Pepper, relieved, said, "Deal!" He later bought out his partner but the name stayed.

I make a drawing of the islet. It has the iconic palm trees growing horizontally over the sand beach, the sun setting behind clouds beyond.

Dinner and a calm night. More conversation of past and future, the moon smiling across the water.

 

End of Report Nine

 

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