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17, 2003-front page
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c/o John R. Morgan
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event the e-mails are returned from the above addresses --
Report Ten from the Otter: Back to Tahiti with
Saturday, August 7 --
Breakfast over, we say goodbye to our second perfect anchorage and spend
the morning and early afternoon motoring back around the island retracing our
We anchor off the Bora Bora Cash Api grocery store about a Ĺ mile north of
Vaitape, the main town on the island. They identify their large (for the
islands) Costco-style grocery with a large pink pennant flying over the store
and another one on a pole near the dinghy tie-up wall.
We stock up on juice Ė Todd likes the guava and passion fruit mix, which
I havenít seen anywhere else, and cheese, crackers, wine vegetables, and
French canned main dishes such as duck-and-sauerkraut casserole. Combinations,
again, unique to French Polynesia. Granola and cereals. We ferry a cartload of
food in white plastic bags out to Otter.
Picking up the anchor we motor the few miles back north to the Bora Bora
Yacht Club. Tonight is the big paella dinner that Guy has offered as thanks
for the signs I made for the Club. Iíve invited a number of people we know
to join us. Brian and Doreen from Oto, Douglas from Calliste,
and a British delivery skipper Mike on Dreadnought Ė who has to be
New Zealand in 12 days to catch a plane Ė awfully fast passage, with no
stops in between!
The bowl of rice and shellfish, mussels, and squid arrives and is almost
the size of the table. It is the chefís masterpiece.
Brian tells stories of cruising the south coast of Turkey and how in all
the world that is one place to which they want to return. Guy contributes a
bottle of Rosť
wine to the dinner and the evening moves on.
As our group gets smaller, we are joined by Soline. She is a
thirty-something French woman who is working in Bora Bora and living on a
friendís boat that sheís boat-sitting on its mooring at the Yacht Club.
A week earlier, Pepper and I had helped save the boat when it broke loose
from its mooring with no one aboard. Later someone had pointed me out to her.
She joined us with a large silver bucket full of rum punch as a way of saying,
Todd and I were more than happy to make room for her and a little later, as
other more sober friends dinghied home, Todd and Soline and I went dancing.
In the center of Vaitape, behind the stadium that had been constructed for
the July festivities, were a series of thatched-roofs and side buildings that
housed small snack shops, a row of inexpensive restaurants, and a large disco.
Tonight was the discoís last night before the structures were removed
until next July. A big last dance. It was 100% Polynesian; we were the only
three European faces in the crowd.
Todd and Soline danced while I guarded the small packs. In the dark
strobe-lit dirt-floored room, Toddís head could be seen bouncing above the
others. Most of the crowd was in their teens and twenties. Like their relaxed
life-style, their disco dancing was designed to conserve energy. Even with the
music blaring and the bass pounding, their feet never left the ground. Their
knees bend and bodies sway just enough to produce a gentle rhythmic movement
but the feet stay planted. This type of dancing also allowed the couples to
continue their beer drinking at the same time.
I found a place in front of the wall of speakers where I stood in a row of
young men. Some very scary looking dudes, arms crossed, hats backwards, big
pants slung low Ė an American ghetto look, yet each one, as I looked at
them, gave me a big friendly smile and a few Hawaiian "hang loose"
(I encountered this gesture here in Polynesia. I think itís from Hawaii,
and maybe everyone in the States has known it for a long time. Either hand is
raised with the little finger and thumb extended out and the three middle
fingers curled to the palm Ė then the wrist is rotated gently back and
The friendliness continued as a couple of these guys passed me a small pipe
like I havenít seen since the 60ís and followed that with some unmarked
green bottles that they said was whiskey but must have been home brew.
As the lights and my mind swirled, I thought "only a few months in the
tropics and Iím going straight to the dogs." Just like in my
"beatnik" days (I arrived in Greenwich Village a year too early to
have been labeled a hippie), the patterns of movement and the music became
fascinating abstractions, lulling me to fall asleep sitting on a bench against
Todd and Soline scooped me up and got me home where I had the soundest
nightís sleep in months.
Sunday, August 8 --
A day of rest.
Monday, August 9 --
Leave Bora Bora and sail to Tahaa, the small island north of Raiatea. The
trip is a bit wet; the wind is up to 20 knots, and on the nose. We have to
motor a good part of the way. Todd steers.
By 3:00 p.m. we have covered the 24 miles of open water and enter the reef
through Paipai pass with green-backed breakers curling on either side. The
ocean swell subsides and the water is flat inside the reef.
We motor around a point into Hurepiti Bay, past Lolita, past Attitude,
and anchor in 50í of water. The bay is long and narrow and lifts up to
surround us. Bora Bora turns lavender blue in the distance as the sun sets.
Showers in the foredeck and pasta with a lobster bisque sauce for dinner.
We talk till late in the night. Todd describes how vulnerable he felt in the
wind and swells of our passage and how secure the fingers of land and the calm
A year ago I would have felt the same after a wet passage from New London
to Block Island. Now I feel that itís nothing remarkable.
But Hurepiti Bay is to Todd what the Bay of Virgins in Fatu Hiva was for me
after 25 days at sea. I understand his relief.
Tuesday, August 10 --
Cool sleeping night with a good breeze. Pamplemousse (grapefruit), hot
chocolate, tea, and cereal for breakfast. The pamplemousse is large, sweet,
Tahaa is the least touristed of the Society Islands and as a result the
people are much friendlier. The only place to land in this bay is a
dinghy-dock that is built out from Sophieís Boutique. Sophie and her husband
came to this bay a number of years ago. They had left France and looked
through all the islands before deciding to live on this bay.
She does beautiful craft work and has a small gift shop. He is a carpenter
and built their open-plan house, next to the boutique, as well as his workshop
and the dock. The grounds are gardened and it is a vision of the tropical
paradise life. We buy some small gifts -- a turtle necklace made from shell,
some vanilla. The vanilla is locally grown; itís one of the larger crops
Jody, Pepper, Todd, and I go to Haamene, the town over the hill on the
other side of the island. The sun is hot and achingly bright. The colors of
the flowers and the depth of the shadows are powerful. A man I met in Bora
Bora named Moana ("ocean") said, "Feel the mana, feel the
power, of the land and sea here." I do.
Later that afternoon we up-anchor and motor 10 miles south to Bay Apu. In
order to get there before dark I have to cut short a discussion with Sophie,
who knew Bernard Motissier, the French single-handed sailor. I remind myself
that this journey will continue to have missed opportunities.
Bay Apu is a disappointment; itís not as attractive or protected as
"Sophieís" Bay. Pepper has arrived earlier and dinghies over to
point out a mooring we can take.
Todd and I are having dinner at 7:30 and itís black-dark when a catamaran
calls to us and says itís a private mooring Ė theirs Ė could we please
move! We move not too far away, set the anchor in 110í of water, and finish
our evening dinner and discussion.
During the conversation I was going on about how important letting go is,
to allow a beautiful moment to pass rather than distorting it in the process
of trying to hold on, and how important it is to stay emotionally clear.
Ironically, just a few hours later Iíd forgotten most of my fine ideas.
At 10:00 p.m. I looked outside and the anchor was dragging, we were only 30í
from another moored boat. Twice more in 100+ feet of water I tried to get the
anchor to hold. It wouldnít, and bringing it up was a backbreaking job.
All during this time I was not saying very nice things about Pepper. I knew
I should have made inquiries about the mooring, but I didnít. Anchoring
during daylight would have been a lot easier. My normally relaxed attitude got
a bit twisted up each time I hauled in 350 lbs. of muddy anchor chain.
Finally, at 11:30 p.m. I set the Fortress anchor on 30í of chain and a
rope rode, let out 300í of scope, and it held. Todd reminded me not to come
down so hard on Pepper Ė he had only tried to be helpful. And unspokenly I
knew it was my mistake, and I felt doubly bad for needing to blame it on
Wednesday August 11 --
Motor across the few mile gap to Raiatea and tie up in a small protected
marina just north of Uturoa, the main town.
Feeling very pressured today. Getting diesel in five gallon jugs, by
bicycle from a gas station in town, takes 2 Ĺ hours. Top up water tanks. Wash
off the salt from the decks. Clean up. The plans to get away early to another
motu fade as the day flies by.
Gerard, a waiter at the Bora Bora Yacht Club, had told me that Bernard
Motissierís last boat, the Tamata, is stored at a boatyard in Raiatea.
Motissier, the sailor I had been discussing with Sophie, was in the first
single-handed nonstop round-the-world race organized by the London Sunday
Times. The race was for a Golden Globe, and in 1968 a number of now
well-known sailors started; only Robin Knox-Johnson, an Englishman, finished.
After sailing around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, Motissier was
headed back up the Atlantic to England and in a good position to win even
though he had started later than Knox-Johnson when he decided he didnít want
his experience to be competitive and had come to feel the trophy had no value.
He turned, sailed past the Cape of Good Hope a second time, across under
Australia and on to Tahiti, which he thought a more fitting end to his journey
than the hoopla in England.
Later, after logging 307 days at sea in Joshua, named after Joshua
Slocum, Joshua went aground in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Many years
afterward, Motissier had a smaller steel-hulled sloop built, which he named Tamata.
He sailed it to French Polynesia and had lived simply in the Tuamotus for many
years, a hero in French and international sailing circles. After his death his
wife put the boat in storage in Raiatea and returned to France.
I decide to find it and ride the bicycle about eight miles to the Carianage
Raiatea Marine. After asking directions a few times I found her sitting at the
far back edge of the yard.
Steel-hulled and rugged, everything about her spoke of strength and
self-reliance. On the black bottom were three large very worn rectangular zinc
plates on each side for electrolysis. The deck was painted white with rough
sand. An aviatorís Lexan dome stuck up from the companionway cover. It had
what looked like a home-made roundish wooden mast, held up with rough-strand
wire over thimbles with bulldog clips, shackles, and the odd turnbuckle. The
bowsprit was a steel pipe about four inches in diameter welded down onto the
I imagine Motissier alone in the middle of a roaring storm, on deck
changing sails, reefing and surviving Ė tough Ė competent. I take photos
in the long afternoon light.
This unelegant, no-frills boat looked so un-nineties: it made me feel soft
Thursday, August 12 --
Up early, breakfast of tea, hot chocolate, oatmeal, and oranges. Motor
along the channel inside the reef down to Faaroa Bay to see the legendary
starting place for the voyaging canoes that left to settle much of Polynesia,
Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand.
We motor in and out, not much to see. Stardust Yacht Charters has a base
there. Stardust, Iím told later, is being bought by Sun Yacht Charters, a
bigger fish. The bay is not impressive, though a large machine with a
pneumatic jackhammer is chipping away at a hill and filling the bay with its
Directly opposite Faaroa Bay is a pass and beyond that by 22 miles is
Huahine. As we exit through the pass, the sea picks up. The wind is directly
on the bow, so we turn left into a starboard tack.
Itís a long, wet, windy, slog. Iíve taken in one reef in the main and
left only half the Genoa out. The monitor is steering. Todd has a grim look.
Heís visibly uncomfortable and queasy. He stops talking except for
At 3:00 p.m. I check our position and realize weíre being blown farther
off our rhumb line than I expected! I turn on the engine and Todd steers as we
head almost directly into the wind for the last 11 miles. I furl the Genoa and
sheet the main to dead-flat and center. With the engine at full throttle, we
are only moving at three knots; this means we'll be threading the pass after
Wet, windy, and now dusk, a freighter pulls by us. It is headed for the
pass as well.
Todd appears to be increasingly anxious. I feel inordinately calm and am
certain that we will find a safe anchorage.
The charts indicate there are two green range-lights for the entrance.
(Technical note: range lights are usually a pair of shore-based lights
placed on different poles or towers so that one is a ways behind the other and
somewhat higher than the first. When viewed from the sea, once they align
vertically with one exactly above the other, you know that if you steer
directly toward them and keep them aligned, you are staying on the line down
the center of the pass.)
At 7:30 p.m. we enter the pass. The wind is still strong and it takes a
while to find a good spot to anchor. Weíre both exhausted, so after a hot
dinner we go to bed early.
As I lie in my tiny bunk in the forepeak I hear the wind increase. The
pressure on the bare mast heels us slightly and the rain comes down hard,
drumming on the hatch above my head. Iím glad weíre not at sea.
The next day another boat says they were impressed with our entrance.
Friday, August 13 --
Up at 7:00 a.m. Breakfast, wash up, clean up the boat from yesterday's
sail, inflate the dinghy. Struggle with it getting the motor on, and it begins
to rain. Everything is an effort.
After four weeks with people aboard Iím developing a mild case of cabin
Being extremely close physically for extended periods of time is not
ordinarily the way we live: Married couples spend eight or 10 hours apart
during the work day.
Communication over small daily items can break down, and keeping things
going smoothly can be energy draining. I felt I hadnít been allowing enough
personal time to recharge and decided to go running.
At the dock, while Todd was dropping me off, we met Mark, a single-hander,
and two of his friends here on a visit. Mark had a badly scarred left arm and
the fingers of his left hand didnít work, all resulting from a shark attack.
He explained that he had been living in Ponapei in Micronesia and surfing
alone by a reef. As he paddled his board he felt something like an electric
shock: his arm had been bitten by a bull shark.
He managed to get to his dinghy all the while losing a lot of blood. He
thought heíd faint before he could rig a tourniquet, so he started the
engine and headed for the village. He passed out.
He awoke a minute later with his head down in the bottom of the dinghy Ė
the blood had rushed back to his head and revived him. He stayed in that
position, steering for a white cloud that hovered over the town.
He ran into the side of a freighter at the town pier. The crew got him
aboard, then into an ambulance.
After two years of reconstructive surgery and therapy heís back sailing
the South Pacific as a true single-handed single-hander.
I run a long time and spend the rest of the afternoon catching up the
journal, all the while thinking about the phenomenon of cabin fever. (A
week or so later, in Papeete, Iím catching up over cappuccinos at le
Retro with Russ and Barbara of Tehani. The conversation turns to cabin
fever and Russ tells me that he had been the captain of a Navy vessel. During
that time a study concluded that 10 days was the maximum time Navy crews could
be close together before cabin fever sets in.
The study recommended changing the routine every 10 days with shore leave,
movies, anything at all to vary the routine and provide a break. But always at
the 10-day period.)
Saturday, August 14 --
Shop for provisions and prepare Otter for an overnight sail to
Moorea. If we get heavy winds on the bow, the 80-odd miles might take us two
days, making it like the passage Sandy and I had earlier this year in the
Caribbean, from Virgin Gorda to St. Martinís across the Anegada Passage Ė
two days of beating into 25-knot winds.
We clear the pass by 12:30 p.m. and Todd steers while I continue to stow
groceries and do tie-downs below. Coming around the north end of the island we
are out from under its lee; the waves increase to four feet.
The wind, however, is not from the southeast as it has been for days, but
from the northeast; we are able to steer a direct course for Moorea. Todd gets
It gets dark and gray and starts to rain. A wind squall with gusts over 30
knots hits us. I put two reefs in the main and furl most of the Genoa.
I keep talking and am consciously cheerful as I do the reefing, ignoring
the rail going into the water. Todd tells me later it was the right thing to
do, that he felt more confident as a result.
The squall passes. The wind shifts even more to the north. At 7:30 p.m. I
make a hot "Cup o' Soup" and Todd, who hasnít eaten all day, eats
a little and manages to hold it down. The wind drops to whispers and we start
the engine. Todd steers and stays stoically at his post till midnight.
Iíve been napping and he calls below, softly, "Itís twelve
o'clock," our watch change. I get up and take over.
Long, greasy swells. Todd sleeps. I hate steering and make a mental note to
fix the electric auto-pilot in Tahiti.
Itís a long, boring night, but weíre on course and our ETA is late a.m.
Sunday, a one-day passage.
Sunday, August 15 --
Anchor down in Cook's Bay at 11:00 a.m. Clean up the boat and stow gear.
Inflate the dinghy. Cook's Bay is as dramatic as Iíd remembered. I nap.
At 4:30 p.m. we hitchhike to the Bali Hai Hotelís restaurant for drinks
and dinner. At the bar, I get into a conversation with a French tour guide,
and notice that right next to him is the salesman who sold Sandy her pearls.
The salesman in his shop is urbane and smooth; here at the bar heís a street
kid from Iowa. He canít quite place me.
We ask our waitress at dinner how to say, "Youíre welcome" in
Tahitian. She doesnít know, and asks all the other waitresses, who also donít
know, then says there is no word for that. Sheís right. "Thank
you" is "maruru," and thatís it Ė no reciprocal nicety.
Over dinner Todd reminisces about the time he spent here in Moorea when he
played basketball for Samoa in the South Pacific games almost 32 years ago.
Monday, August 16 --
Lazy day Ė worked on journals and sketches. Todd walked toward the
Belvedere viewspot and explored the little village.
Tuesday, August 17 --
Todd rents a bike and we cycle out to Tiki Village, which recreates
historic Polynesian living and crafts. Itís closed.
We have a delicious lunch at the Timpanier Restaurant with incredible views
overlooking the lagoon. On the way back, Todd forges ahead to get his bike
back on time; I move more slowly.
I hear some drumming as I go through a village and turn off the road to see
where itís coming from. In a field behind a small row of stores, the local
menís dance team is practicing.
It feels like the softball teams on the playing fields at Calf Pasture park
at home in Norwalk, Connecticut. The men are in their T-shirts, shorts, and
not costumed. The drummers are energetic and the young men dance and jump in
unison with each other working up a sweat as they redo their steps a number of
One of the young men is a gymnast who does flips and hand-walking during
breaks. There is a crowd of family members that has come to watch the
practice. I feel badly that I havenít brought my recorder: I tell myself Iíll
have to carry it at all times.
Wednesday, August 18 --
Today we decided weíd go on the shark-feeding and manta-ray excursion.
Our excursion group members, except for Todd and me, are all from the
hotels. There are about sixteen of us: a Japanese mother with her young son, a
South African couple, an Italian couple, and the rest are Americans.
The excursion boat is a large, fiberglass, square box with two outboard
engines, a canvas canopy on a pipe frame overhead, and bench seats along each
side. The crew members are Polynesian. The owner is stocky and muscular with
short-cropped hair and a few dreads falling forward. The driver is thinner, in
his late twenties, with long hair pulled back in a frizzy ponytail. His
girlfriend, who is very quiet, is a general helper.
They pick us up at the Bali Hai Club near the yacht-dinghy tie-up pier. The
first stop is the middle of Cookís Bay where we are given an abbreviated
history of the area -- Captain Cookís arrival and stays there, and the
legends of the mountains.
Mt. Mouaputa, at the back of the bay, has a visible hole in it. The legend
goes that Hiro, the thief god, was trying one night to steal Mt. Rotui and tow
it back to his Island of Raiatea. Pai, who was on Tahiti, woke up and saw what
Hiro was trying to do.
Pai was too far away to launch his war canoes, so he took his spear and
threw it across the 12-mile channel. He missed Hiro but put a hole through
Mount Mouaputa. This woke up all the dogs on the island, which then started
barking and waking the people. Hiro, frightened, dropped most of Mt. Rotui and
only succeeded in keeping a small part.
Curiously, there is a spot in Raiatea where the vegetation matches that of
Moorea rather than its own surroundings.
Mt. Rotui on the west side of the bay is where the great warriors and
chiefs of old were carried and buried in the caves near the summit to be close
to the gods. (The supermarkets now carry a "Mt. Rotui" line of fruit
juices. Theyíre missing an opportunity for some obvious slogan, like
"nectar of the gods.")
We zip around to the next bay, Opunohu, and the guide points out the how
the rock formations on either side of the bay resemble portions of male and
female anatomy. I am reminded of Ogden Nashís lines, "Everything always
reminds me of sex, Itís either concave, or else itís convex."
At the back of the bay is Mt. Mouaroa, whose pointy peak is also known as
"the Sharkís Tooth." It has become the symbol of French Polynesia,
and was used as the Hollywood image of "Bali Hai" in South
Pacific as well as the backdrop for the Mel Gibson version of Mutiny on
After our historical overview of the bay and a good look at "Bali Hai,"
weíre off again at breakneck speed to the reef west of the bay. We arrive
and anchor in a shallow area where there are two other boats full of tourists.
The water is only chest-deep but we all don fins, masks, and snorkels.
Yellow polypropylene lines are stretched between the boats and we are all told
to stay behind the rope. The owner gets a big piece of fish out of a closed
barrel, the putting on his own mask and snorkel, he takes a knife and jumps
into the water, positioning himself about 10 feet in front of the yellow rope.
We are all holding the rope, our bodies floating behind it looking like a
row of white, wiggly sausages the color of fish flesh. Perfect shark bait. Our
guide says sharks only attack white people.
He cuts strips and throws them forward. Soon, among the cloud of smaller
fish, the black-tipped reef sharks start showing up. Within 10 minutes there
are 10 or 15 of them circling and taking the bait almost out of his hands.
He rubs their fins as they swim by Ė they seem almost tame. None of them
is over 5-Ĺ feet, so Iím not too worried. Years ago I was told that most
fish only feed on fish smaller than themselves. I decide not to test the
After a half an hour of this we climb aboard the boat and zoom to another
location about five miles further west on the reef where we anchor again in
chest-high water. Here, also, are a number of other tourist boats.
Back in the water again, the sting-rays glide between our legs, their wings
soft and rubbery as they touch us. Weíve been warned not to step on their
Our captain gets a great kick out of holding some of the larger ones by the
wings and bringing them up to the more skittish women in our group. There are
dozens of the rays Ė smooth charcoal gray shapes just above the sand,
swimming through the forest of legs and nibbling at the scraps of fish. Todd
and I had seen rays in Bora Bora, but not so many or so very close. Great fun!
The next stop is a motu off of the Club Med Resort. Here on the beach while
we wait, some staff members prepare a barbecue chicken and rice lunch,
complete with fresh poisson cru and salad.
Our skipper entertains us with demonstrations of coconut opening using a
sharpened stick, the same technique Todd had shown me earlier. And then a
poisson-cru-making demonstration with the reluctant women as helpers.
During lunch, some friends of the captain come by with guitars and ukuleles
and sing Polynesian songs. I indicate I can play and they give me a guitar. I
follow some simple chord changes.
At the end of a very haunting song they tell us the words tell the story of
the beauty of this paradise that they have inherited. It stresses the
importance of keeping the paradise and the land unspoiled so they can pass it
on to their children and future generations with the same beauty forever.
The lunch is excellent and filling and as we are dropped off back in Cookís
Bay the skipper says, "Remember, ĎMaruru Roaí means ĎThank you very
much.í So, ĎMaruru Roaí for visiting with us, and ĎMaruru Roaí for
going home again."
We laugh, but there is truth in what he says.
That evening Todd and I have a conversation that I still think about. Todd
has an ability to ask probing personal questions. He is a good listener with
an ear for honesty and a sensitivity to bullshit or evasion.
He says, "Iíve watched you work hard, too hard, for years; you put
in long hours for relatively small rewards. If you had chosen to stay in high
school and gone to college, your life would have been immeasurably easier. You
wouldnít have needed to work so grindingly hard. Have you ever thought about
As he spoke, a life in a parallel universe comes to view of a different
self, and then fades, a wraith in the evening light. A half-seen figure of
myself, wearing a tie, an architect of temples, shimmering on mountain tops.
Todd went to Dartmouth and works for a large corporation that values his
skills. His degree was a prerequisite for his sort of employment. He believes
that education endows advantages. Higher education is a greater good.
Two thoughts came to mind immediately. The first is that I didnít have
the temperament in my teens, or even now, that could have endured the standard
educational structure for another six years of my life, a life I felt belonged
outside the school walls. Outside, moving through the vast richness of the
world beyond. I still feel that attraction of exploring the "world
beyond" Ė A powerful magnet drawing me since I can remember.
And, the second: what about my children? Would another path have led to
their existence? Impossible questions. I would trade nothing in this life or
any other possible lives for the path that led our lives together.
The question becomes a hall of mirrors reflecting pasts of self I havenít
examined, and Todd becomes the reflecting plane. There are shadows falling
between our beliefs of how the world is, that overlap and create
three-dimensional hologram images of self not seen except in anotherís
I see myself, and Todd more clearly. Iím more certain that the path Iíve
been on has been necessary for what Iíve needed to learn. And what Iíve
needed to learn has created the path.
The question still gathers and reflects; its echoes still come back to me.
Thursday, August 19 --
Today is Toddís last day. I make a special pancake breakfast, with real
maple syrup and tinned butter and jellies and fresh coffee and juice. Todd
calls it a "thoroughly superior comestible," and I say, "a what?"
I think I remember him saying the phrase came from Rudyard Kiplingís
"Just So" stories and describes a cake that one of the animals made.
It joins my list of odd terms, like "runcible spoon."
As we are attacking our Ďsuperior comestible,í a boat with two Douane
officials (customs) pulls up alongside and the officials come aboard. They
check our paperwork, ask about our shipís stores, fill out some papers. I
show them the watercolors Iíve been making. They are very friendly, donít
ask any hard questions, and leave after their short visit.
Their visit reminds me of a story I heard about a mega-yacht that had
filled out the customs forms in Tahiti and listed about 50 bottles of wine,
only to have the customs inspectors come aboard in nearby Moorea and count
150. They were fined over $3,000 for this oversight.
We lift anchor and motor to Papeete. The winds are very light. The sky is
bright blue and has small puffs of cloud along the horizon. At 1:30 p.m. we
clear the pass into Papeete harbor. By 2:00 p.m. we are moored
"Mediterranean style" at the quay, directly across from Le Retro.
Here at the quay I assemble the fortress anchor, 30 feet of chain, and the
nylon rode. At about 150 feet from the quay, we paid it over the stern as I
motor forward toward the dock. As the bowsprit comes to the edge of the quay,
Todd hands off two bow lines to people on the dock who run them off to
bollards left and right. After snugging them down with the bowsprit about
stepping distance from the dock, I pull up on the stern anchor until itís
tight. Pointing this way, the crowds walking along the dock canít see into
the companionway and below.
Todd wanted a really nice last meal, so in the evening we go to Oliverís
Oliverís is certainly the right place: the tables and dťcor are done
beautifully; the waiter is informal yet very professional. Heís even been
trained in a French waiterís school. Todd knows wines and chooses one that
is delicious. The dinners arrive and all in all they are "thoroughly
superior comestibles." We toast to our longstanding friendship.
Friday, August 20 --
All last night I woke every hour. Restless. Before getting up this morning
I dream of walking on our ancestral beach in Waterford, Connecticut with a
woman that is my own old age, that is my own solitude. It is a peaceful dream.
We rise in darkness and are on le Truck to the airport by 6:00 a.m. Itís
a silent ride. After Todd buys a few last gifts at the airport and we say our
last few words of farewell, Toddís plane departs.
I stand alone in the airport parking lot. I feel strange after 5-1/2 weeks
of living closely to two people. Suddenly I can make decisions independently.
It wonít matter if I sit and have coffee or take le Truck back to town.
There is no one else involved in the consequence of my action. It feels odd. I
take le Truck to town.
I busy myself with a hundred errands. Washing clothes. Going to the bank
for cash. Finding batteries for my watch.
I meet Papaulo, a Swiss traveler, on the quay; heís going to Raiatea by
freighter and will hook up with Malvina there. Malvina had me
over for dinner in Nuku Hiva, and I want to copy a watercolor for them of
their boat in the harbor. I ask Papaulo to come by later in the afternoon.
Papaulo comes by for the drawing and brings two Hinano beers. In my broken
French and his broken English we talk for over an hour.
He is about 35, thin, with sandy hair in a ponytail and a red handkerchief
rolled and tied around his forehead. Heís deeply tanned and his blue eyes
are deep-set in his wrinkled face. With a wardrobe of tanktops, torn shirts,
and flip-flops, he travels lightly, all his possessions in a knapsack.
Heís been traveling the world since he left school at 15, leaving
Switzerland and missing his period of compulsory military service. Three years
later, after traveling extensively in South America, he was detained in Peru:
the Swiss government had caught up with him. He spent the next two years in a
As soon as he was released he started traveling again and hasnít stopped.
So far heís seen much of Africa, Central, and South America. He plans on
seeing New Guinea, Asia, China, and India next.
I ask him, doesnít he want a home or a family someday? He says maybe.
Maybe much later he will become a true nomad and travel on his camel through
the African deserts with his African wife and live in a tent. And when heís
really old he will retire to Benin, a French African country where he will sit
under a shade tree and order the young boys to bring him water and fruit.
He takes the watercolor and heads for the freighter to Raiatea.
I give Otter a thorough washing with the hose, take a long shower,
and put on fresh, warm clothes from the laundry.
I meet Kevin Ferguson on Cool Change from Vancouver farther up the
quay, and a little later Jim and Lynn Rodehaver on Windchime from
Seattle show up. I havenít seen either boat since the Marquesas; I had met
Jim and Lynn earlier, in the Galapagos, where we had dinner just before they
left to cross to the Marquesas.
Itís like old-home-week, and we decide to go out for dinner. We go to a
Chinese restaurant called Le Dragon díOr, where for $20 we get a huge
chicken, vegetable, and rice dinner with beer, coffee, and dessert included.
The restaurant is full and noisy -- it appears to be the place for the locals
to go on a Friday night, and a Polynesian band in the bar area helps liven
Over dinner we share lots of sea stories and whale and fish stories and
wind and squall and gear failure stories. Jim and Lynn are interested in going
to the Gauguin museum and are interested in my coming along to give them some
insights. Iím flattered.
After dinner they catch le Truck back to Maeva Beach, where they are
anchored, leaving Kevin and me to talk books and arrange a swap.
The end of my first day alone in Papeete, I read Midshipman Hornblower
until I fall asleep sprawled across the large bunk in the main cabin.
End of Report Ten