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Report Eleven from the Otter: The Final Five Tahitian Weeks

Aboard the yacht Otter
Opua, New Zealand
December 1999

Dear Friends and E-mail Family,

I spent the weeks following Toddís departure at the Yacht Quay in Papeete. Originally the plan was to spend two weeks, in which I was going to clean, do repairs, and prepare for the next legs of the voyage. Also catch up on the journal which had lagged and write up notes to send to John. Also do some water coloring and send home some of the commissions I had taken before I left home. Also get a chance to dig a little deeper into Polynesian culture and Tahiti Ė maybe do some mountain hikes and get away from the city.

As it was I spent five weeks and the time flew and I didnít get to many of the things I expected to.

Boat work became endless and sometimes frustrating due to the lack of parts and supplies, so, much work went onto the list for New Zealand. The journal notes, as always, took much longer than Iíd allowed. As brother John said at Sandyís and my wedding as a preface to his remarks, "If brevity is the soul of wit, then there are some who would say we Morgans may be witless."

Brevity has never been easy for me and if a longer, more complicated description will do Iíll do it. The old art adage "less is more" never quite sunk in when I was in art school. And the watercolor commissions I started to make --- well, they came out too well. I got attached to them and really enjoyed finding new spots to sketch. Then I couldnít part with them, so I added "make copies of watercolors" to my to-do list for New Zealand. (Iíll have to spend a year in New Zealand to finish the list!)

And then I got involved with my neighbors. I got hooked into working for Tehiva fixing and repairing his monster old boat, and getting French lessons in return from his adopted daughter, a 21 year old French girl, Magali, who was studying diving to start their pearl farm.

And I loved the routine of running in the morning, working during the day and hanging over coffee and ice cream at le Retro in the evenings, writing in the journal and sketching and replacing all those lost calories from the morning run.

Sandy, when she arrived, said I looked thinner than sheíd ever seen me and liked it. So did I. And then regular eating patterns set in: preparing three meals a day, and lots of sidewalk and restaurant food. And lord, the French do know how to make great bread, so my lost weight was all soon found!

I realize how long sea voyages are for me a great dieting technique. Iíll write magazine articles when I get home with titles like, "How to lose 15 pounds in four weeks." First buy a boat. Second, sail across 3,000 miles of open ocean alone. Third, sail with a broken stove. Fourth, bring no cookbooks or recipes for anything. Fifth, stock only tuna fish and canned corn and vitamin pills. Iíll compile them into an instant best seller, The Cruising Guide to Instant Weight Loss.

A woman I met later on said that before the Europeans came, when the Tahitian was hungry heíd pick fruit or go fishing. After the French and Chinese arrived, a Tahitian goes fishing, sells it for money and goes to the Chinese corner store where they bake the long French bread. And I would see families in the morning the father with an arm full of eight or 10 long loaves.

As time melted away I realized I was cutting time out of the cruising areas further along as I had to be in New Zealand before the start of the hurricane season in mid-November. The number of cruising yachts diminished. The overflow along the long black sand beach became almost empty and the ones left at the Quay were the French live-aboards. It was time to go.

I said goodbye to my friends and sailed to Moorea on September 23rd. A very sad good bye. I hung around Moorea for four days mentally preparing for another off shore voyage and doing last boat prep and finally began to move again on Tuesday, September 28th, brother Johnís birthday, when I lifted the anchor and headed south west to Rarotonga, the capital of the Cook Islands.

Following are selected excerpts from the journal of my five weeks in Papeete at the Quay.

Weíre all  on the journey,

Brec

Saturday, August 21 --

Long day of boat chores and varnishing. The varnish in the tropics needs a new coat every two months and itís looking very mottled. Iíll wait till I get home before I sand it all out and bleach it and re-varnish. Till then, just keeping it covered will have to do.

Kevinís dad Bob has come to visit for 10 days. Kevin has a refrigerator and the evening starts with cold Hinanos and peanuts then to the Roulottes. We stop at Le Boulle Rouge for a crepe with ham, cheese, eggs and tomato. Then Kevin and I split a chocolate and banana with whipped cream dessert crepe.

We sit by the water and look at the Paul Gauguin cruise ship and talk of boats and sailing and singlehanders (heís one) and Cook and Kevinís socialist entropic theories. The great evil of our civilization, he feels, is in money and the making of it and turning people into wage slaves so they can buy all the unnecessary things the marketing industry brain washes us into throwing our love away on.

Kevin says he will loan me his copy of the Unibomberís Manifesto Ė he bought it as a statement of intellectual freedom and hasnít really read it (nor does he subscribe to violence) but wants to thumb his nose at the thought police in our society. I politely decline Ė (Iíve got to finish my Hornblowers!).

The roulelles are washing their dishes at the edge of the Quay with hoses and fresh water, scraping leftovers into the bay. A man pisses off the dock into the water. The lights from the Paul Gauguin reflect across the water to our bench Ė around and under our tree. Bob has to piss as well so we go to find a public bathroom. Two different cultures.

On the way back through the Roulottes, TV Channel 4 from Los Angeles has a crew for its 15 minute "travelerís dining" segment. Interviewing one of the steak roulottes cooks who can speak some English. Their American accents stand out in this crowd. I talk to the cameraman and when I tell him Iím sailing alone around the world, heís impressed and says he wants to do it too. Itís his dream. But he says heíd prefer to sail with Bridgette Neilsson. (sp?) I donít know who she is but assume sheís a beautiful model. This blast of mainstream American media energy contrasts to the exotic row of Roulottes and reminds me how far I am from home.

Sunday, August 22 --

Many dreams this morning Ė drift away like smoke.

I attend another church service at the Paofai Temple and this Sunday is very different. All the men and women are dressed in floral print shirts and dresses with some of the most creative and beautiful hats. Some are white woven palm fronds with colored metallic sticky Christmas bows stuck all over the top Ė the effect of a church full of color is like a tropical garden in riot. I tape the singing.

Visit with Discovery. They have brought mail for me from Nuku Hiva. It had arrived at Roseís hotel after I left. They confirm that Gary and Kristi on Violet are turning around. Violet will sail back to the States while Kristi and the children fly home to Marthaís Vineyard.

Dinner on Cool Change with Bob and Kevin. Kevin makes a mean chili. Kevin works as a civilian technician for the Canadian government and works three years and gets to take one full year off, unpaid. Heís been using this opportunity to sail the South Pacific and Mexican coast.

I see a boat named Huarepe and am told that it means Ďthe peacefulness of the morning light.í

Monday, August 23 --

Kevin goes to Moorea with his father and I move into Kevinís spot at the Quay since where I was will be needed for mooring lines for a big ship that is to arrive soon.

In the evening I read The Venturesome Voyages of Captain Voss, the great Canadian who sailed Tillicum to England from Vancouver. Itís narrative in the same style as Slocum. Hair-raising storms, a small wooden Northwest Indian canoe. He sailed just after Slocum at the beginning of the century. Those guys were truly courageous!

Tuesday, August 24 --

Jim and Lynn and I take le Truck to the Gauguin museum and spend the entire morning. I enjoy introducing them to different ways to look at the art in the Little Gallery to the side of the museum. It has a Sonia DeLany (sp?) and some cubist work. I describe the history of art and what the artists were attempting to convey through their new (at the time) styles.

Having engineering and biology backgrounds, itís all fresh for Jim and Lynn and I find myself becoming enthusiastic as I have a receptive audience. I am deeply moved again by this small museum. My own understanding of Gauguin deepens.

Wednesday, August 25 --

Start writing journal notes through my arrival in Tahiti. It takes all day.

Start reading The Golden Maze, another book traded to me by Kevin. Itís about a man who travels through the South Pacific in the footsteps of Captain Cook and gives descriptions from Cook, then his own descriptions of what heís finding in the late 50ís. Itís fascinating how much impact Cook had on the history of the entire South Pacific.

Thursday, August 26 --

Run out to boatyards and back Ė 45 minutes. Feels good.

Writing up journal notes again takes all day. There are gaps in my journal in the Marquesas where things were happening rapidly and I let days go by with only scraps of paper left in my logbook. I piece it together and try to remember the details.

Friday, August 27 --

Run for a half an hour to the west of town.

Write for nine hours, 12 pages double-sided, reliving the Pacific crossing. Itís fascinating and tiring. I go outside to stretch occasionally.

After a ziti dinner I walk to le Retro for coffee and to read my new Time magazine Ė a news junkie again.

Saturday, August 28 --

Wake early and run for one hour.

Work on the journal notes all day again. Iím reliving the Marquesas.

In the afternoon I talk for a while to my neighbor on Pen Kallet, a large ferro-cement "liveaboard" boat next to me. Tehiva is Tuamotuan from a small island of Ahe, where Motissier lived for three years. Tehiva knew him. He introduces me to his French-looking daughter, Magali. I donít understand their names right away and will have to ask again.

Le Retro again for coffee and finish my Time.

Sunday, August 29 --

Run to boatyards and back.

At 8:00 a.m. I make a call to Waterford, Connecticut. Today is our Brooks family reunion picnic. There are between 80 and 125 people that show up each year and this will be the first one Iíve missed in over 20 years.

Ten of the twelve houses lining this short, crushed-stone, single-car lane still belong to descendants or relatives of my maternal grandmotherís parents. In 1923, her father, Burtus Brooks, divided some land heíd gotten from his father and gave each of his living 11 children small parcels along this lane with rights to a short path to the beach on Long Island Sound.

At the beach, to the immediate west is the Seaside Regional Center, formerly a state tuberculosis sanitorium and until recently a state home for retarded children, while to the east stretches a three-quarter-mile strand over to the Harkness estate, once privately owned but now a state park. Due to a large salt pond and marshes over by Harkness, the beach remains largely undeveloped, and except for a slowly receding shoreline from storms, would be still be recognizable to Burtus, his grandparents, and probably their grandparents. This is the beautiful, pristine, primordial beach I dream of often as I sail in Paradise.

His children were to build small cottages so they could come and visit in the summers and enjoy each otherís company as well as the beach, with its fishing and nearby clamming and crabbing.

Some of them, however, built year-round houses. My grandmother was among the first, and my mother grew up in a house where she could see beyond her grandfatherís house to his fatherís house --- an unbroken line back into the early 1800ís.

On the large lawn next to my grandmotherís house, where my brother John now lives, the family gathers at noon and everyone holds hands in a large circle around the tables filled with food. They say Grace, sing the Doxology, and begin filing down the tables lined with pot-luck casseroles, clam chowder, and desserts. I miss being part of the circle.

When I call itís 2:30 in the afternoon and I get John on the phone who starts lining up the family members who havenít wandered down to the beach for a swim. I talk with over a dozen relatives and am told Iíll be marked in the family attendance book as being "present" via phone from Tahiti.

Service at the Protestant church. This morning I sit in the balcony and the hats from above are even more spectacular. I doze during the sermon. Itís in Tahitian, as is the entire service. But the Lordís Prayer has similar phrasing so I can pray along.

Tehiva invites me to lunch in the cockpit of their boat. Poisson cru from a store Ė French bread and water. Itís all delicious. Tehivaís last name is Fariua and he was born on Kaukura, an island in the Eastern Tuamotus. He is 65 years old and has six children.

His wife is a Catholic from Belgium, and is now living in Belgium. I ask if she will return, he says I hope so. And he doesnít speak of it again. He is Mormon.

He has worked all over the world for Club Med as a dive instructor. As a young man he worked on the pearl farms in the Tuamotus and could free dive to 100 feet. He has an idea about developing a pearl farm on his property in Ahe. He laughs when he says he will become a millionaire, then says that the relationship to God is all that counts.

He bought the 43í boat only recently and he doesnít know anything about boats or sailing. He bought it to have a place to stay in Tahiti and a place for Magali to live. He says he met her at a pension where they were both staying. After talking to her about her ambitions and dreams he decided to help her and adopted her in Tahitian fashion.

The adoption is not a legal or paper affair. It is taken seriously, however, by both people as a commitment to each other as family. I ask Magali later and she says yes, I have two fathers. Tehiva is my Tahitian father. And when Tehiva sets a curfew or suggests activities, Magali dutifully follows those requests.

Magali is from Toulouse, France, is 21 and has blonde hair pulled back in a short ponytail. She has a round face, brown eyes, and very bright smile.

She is presently in a four-week special diving course that will teach her to do all the work necessary to construct and maintain a pearl farm, such as moving underwater cages, positioning and moving the "corps morte," or concrete weights that hold the floating grids in position in the lagoons. From the grids are suspended the cages and lines on which the pearl oysters grow.

After the diving course she will go to the Tuamotus for a six-month course in pearl culturing. The pearl grafters are the stars of the industry as there is a high level of skill required. Many of the grafters are paid on a percentage of how many mature oysters bear pearls. The best grafters can become very wealthy.

She shows me some tools of the trade, which remind me of the array on a dentistís side tray. With these, the oyster has to be opened and a very small piece of round shell, the "set," manufactured in Japan, has to be inserted into a particular spot inside the oysterís gonad. This insert requires a perfectly placed small incision.

Since the oysters take up to four years to develop the black nacre, or mother-of-pearl, covering to the minimum thickness accepted by the industry, many beginning grafters will be paid by giving them strings of their own grafted oysters instead of money. This is what Magali hopes to use to start her farm in Ahe with Tehiva.

Black is a generic term for the nacre color. The actual colors of the pearls range from a light champagne gray to dark charcoal with some having more depth and rainbow reflective qualities than others. Some of this, too, is the result of the skill of the grafter.

Magali studied aquaculture in a school in France and while there, she developed her pearl farm concept. Later she shows me her project, the reports and photos of the models she made. Much of her research was done by phone and mail with some existing farms in the Tuamotus.

Her models are cleverly built and thorough, and her report includes a financial business plan that is impressive: it projects a four-year construction and cultivation plan, including expenses and returns. The fourth-year returns start approaching a net of one million U.S. dollars. Itís no wonder Tehiva joked about being a millionaire.

Her plan includes borrowing for start-up costs. But she says she may build more slowly with what she makes as a grafter and Tehivaís help, so she wonít need "partners." And when she gets situated she will invite her family and boyfriend to come help out.

There are many questions left unanswered partly because of the language barrier. Magali has a very calm and peaceful demeanor and she and Tehiva seem to have a special bond, like father and daughter. Itís wonderful to see.

Monday, August 30 --

I work on journal notes. Tehiva asks me to help him unfreeze the rudder on the boat. He asks me to look at the head, which doesnít work. I should have said no, but heís a powerful personality and I tell him tomorrow afternoon.

Over at the cruise ship Quay I hear the arrival celebrations for the R-3, short for the Renaissance 3, the first of three huge new cruise ships that are going to be arriving in Tahiti. The celebrations include lots of noise and balloons.

Tuesday, August 31 --

Jim and Lynn and I go to the Museum of Polynesian Culture. The ride out to the museum on le Truck is pleasantly unusual -- a unique convergence of early morning light, warm sweet air coming in the windows, and music on the speakers blaring a set of toe-tapping Tahitian songs.

Le Trucks are small flatbed trucks that have a boxy, gypsy-wagon-looking passenger compartment on the bed. The interior has benches that run down each side and in many of them there is a 3rd bench that runs down the middle that people straddle facing front or back. Everyone pays when they get off.

Everyone on this crowded bus seems happy, smiling, and helpful. There are many older women with beautiful heavy-featured faces, thick silver hair, and lots of bright floral dresses. I want this ride to last forever.

We get off at the Museum stop with another white couple. Theyíre American. He has a flowered shirt, a pith helmet(!), khaki shorts, and very white legs. I later find that his pith helmet serves a symbolic/marketing function in his business role.

He is the CFO for the corporation that owns and runs the R-3ís. They are based in Florida and heís here for the maiden voyage of the R-3 being celebrated in the harbor. The ship was built in France, as are the other two presently in their final construction stage.

The R-3 venture is marketing these cruises exclusively to Americans, and the first shipís cruises are sold out for three-to-four months. The ports-of-call include Papeete in Tahiti, Cookís Bay in Moorea, and harbors in Huahine, Raiatea, and Bora Bora.

Iíve seen the ship at the pier: it towers over the now puny-looking Paul Gauguin. I canít imagine three of these monsters in some of the small lagoons they plan to visit.

He says itís only one hour more to fly from Los Angeles to Tahiti than to the Caribbean. They expect this area to be as big a cruise ship destination as the Caribbean soon. And they have a five-year contract from the Tahitian government headed by Gaston Floss to operate.

(Mr. Floss, Iím told by local French nationals, is a very rich man from his business interests, many of which seem to profit from government activity. Heís known locally as Monsieur Dix Percent, or "Mister Ten Percent.")

The area, continues the CFO, is perfect because the people are uniformly friendly and welcoming by comparison to those in the Caribbean.

I wonder how long it will take for 2,100 Americans, every 10 days, to change this attitude. How long before the French flavor and culture becomes riddled with Dunkiní Donuts and Dominoes Pizza. How long before it looks like the Post Road in Norwalk. How long before itís just another American colonial outpost?

Ironically Gauguin complained about the French influence on Polynesian culture, and now Iím concerned for the survival of the blend of French and Polynesian that I find so wonderful. The French government is slowly ending its subsidies to the islands and the islands are looking for new income. Even the French governmentís atomic/nuclear testing programs have ended and the huge amount of money spent by the military in French Polynesia is dwindling.

Even though there were riots in Papeete during the last tests and politically very few in French Polynesia support nuclear testing, it had a large positive impact on the local economy. Tourism, they feel, is now their best card. The pith helmets have arrived, yet again.

Wednesday, September 1 --

I continue work on Tehivaís head. Iíd started yesterday afternoon. This is crazy Ė I hate working on my own toilet, let alone someone elseís!

But heís generous and persistent, and Magali does have a beautiful smile. Iím double-teamed!

Today is the worst Ė I find thickly clogged lines that have been left for weeks by some boat sitters before Magali and Tehiva moved aboard. Face mask and rubber gloves are not enough to prevent feeling like gagging.

Thursday, September 2 --

Final day repairing Tehivaís head. Flush and flush again. Man, I promise myself Iíll never work on someone elseís boat again, ever. But Iím committed and by the end of the day everything is cleaned, flushed, repaired, and working smoothly.

Tehiva says heíll pay me. I tell him thereís not enough money in the world to compensate for doing this work. I take long showers and wash all my clothing. He invites me to the Roulottes often after that.

Friday, September 3 --

Tehiva had been fussing like a kid for days with his new TV and antenna. He canít get them to work and has asked me to help. I stubbornly stuck to my one project for him until it was finished.

So today after breakfast I go over to help. I read all the instructions and follow them. The antenna canít be near large metal things, like the mast itís bolted to.

When I move it to the foredeck and rearrange some wires it works perfectly. I fix a leaky sink. Replace the shower sump pump.

I finish the journal notes to John through to Tahiti in the afternoon.

In the evening I make my first dinner for guests since my Father and his wife Margot were aboard in St. Croix. Itís for Tehiva and Magali. Tehiva has a custom of saying grace in Tahitian before each meal.

Salad and noodles and beef with a tomato onion garlic sauce. Tehive also drinks no alcohol or caffeinated beverages Ė milo only. He excuses himself early as he needs to be up early.

He will spend a half a day praying in temple to God about the pearl farm. Iím not clear whether heís praying for help and blessings for the plans or if he wants to be shown whether the plans are ordained to be successful.

Magali and I talk about religion. She says sheís not afraid of death as there is just nothing afterwards. And that religion keeps women down here, gesturing with her right hand flat out and held down low, and men up there, now holding her hand high, still flat but about eye level. She doesnít know much about the Mormons but is interested because of Tehiva.

I donít quite know how to respond. I feel caught off guard and all that comes to mind sound like cliches. I feel religion is a covering over the pearl of great price and its our job to peel away the layers. She feels the effort is unnecessary Ė why deal with it at all.

Later she tells me her family has a special prayer passed from mother to daughter that has miraculous healing power. Sheís not certain enough of her own ability yet to use it for others but she has healed herself. I feel in the presence of a young Joan of Arc whose intuitive vision and drive are symbolically manifested by pearls. Her path to the real pearl is to start a farm.

Sunday, September 5 --

Wake late. Cover the portholes with paper as I donít want Tehiva to see me sleeping in. Our boats are only feet from each other and I donít want him to think Iím lazy.

I feel sick all over. My ear hurts, I have a sour stomach, and Iím feeling depressed, old, and sad about being away from family. "Waiter! Iíd like a table for a pity party of one, please."

I canít get the taped loop of the old "Iím impossibly behind with a ton of bricks on my shoulders so I canít stand up Ė just wanna crawl under a rock while I feel sorry for myself and oh-so-homesick blues" song out of my head. Of course, the audience gets to join in, in three-part harmony, just like Arlo Guthrie has it in "Aliceís Restaurant."

Mostly, though, I feel depressed that the weekís gone and Iíve spent so much time working on someone elseís boat only to pridefully refuse payment.

I nap and read most of the day.

Monday, September 6 --

My batteries reflect my personal energy level by dropping so low that the engine wonít turn over to recharge them. Iíve been ignoring them and letting them discharge too deeply.

The garage I take them to says theyíre dead and need to be replaced. I buy and install two new good batteries and take a $350 hit for my inattention.

Kevin from Cool Change comes by to help. He tells me never to leave my power supply setting on All, but always draw my power from battery one or two so if the discharging battery runs down, there is the second battery to start the engine and recharge the first. Such a simple idea, I should have had it myself long ago.

We have dinner at a French pizza place and I swap Untouchable, a fascinatingly written book that Jim had given me because it "wasnít his cup of tea" for Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman.

Tuesday, September 7 --

Tehiva moves Pen Kalet out of its space and itís towed (the engine has been frozen for years) to the boat yard where he will be hauled and repainted. Tehiva has paid for the space for the next two weeks and offers it to me. I move Otter into his spot; readjusting the lines takes all morning.

Later when I go to the Port Captain to tell him Iíd like to pay through the 6th for my space as Iím now taking Tehivaís spot for the next two weeks. Iím told that no matter what space Iím in I have to pay.

I tell him that he will be collecting twice then on the same space. He fixes me with a hard stare and says "We make the rules around here, not you!" I get his point and leave, discouraged for a morning spent moving the boat for no reason.

Wednesday, September 8 --

Wake in a new location. It feels good. I donít have the constant feeling Tehiva will call me over to solve another mechanical problem.

I bike over to the boatyard to see him and he seems preoccupied, too many things on his mind. He shows me his new red tool box and a mess of tools, only half of which seem of use to him.

Heís been fascinated with the canvas bag of tools Iíve been bringing to his boat and wants his own set. I think heís never been a Mr. Fix-it type, and that he will need me to help on the pearl farm.

I think of that future for a moment: I go with him and Magali to Ahe and the three of us work four years and become very rich and happy, far away from everything. I keep Otter in a bay near the farm and drop off the radar screen. Magali dumps her boyfriend and becomes my mistress. I learn French and Tahitian Ė I become a Mormon. I send cryptic postcards home once a year. Hmm . . OK. Moment over.

In the afternoon I make two really good watercolors for a commission but donít want to part with them and decide to keep the sketchbook intact and make copies in New Zealand. Iím never going to get ahead of it this way.

Thursday, September 9 --

The French bureaucratic two-step starts early. My fuel is low from running the engine to charge the batteries. I need more fuel. There is a small yacht fuel dock not far from the Customs Office where fuel is dispensed between 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and again between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. by a Mobil fuel van that drives up. It taps into an under-the-pavement pipe and then meters the diesel as itís pumped through a spooled hose that looks like the hoses on home fuel-oil delivery trucks.

I bike over at 7:00 a.m. and am told I need a copy of a customs form from the Customs office or he wonít sell me any fuel. I canít give him my original form because Iíve been told I wonít be issued a second original by the Customs people and I want to buy two Jerry Jugs now and then fill up my tanks two weeks from now when I leave.

I have to wait until 8:00 a.m. for the Customs office to open. I explain the situation and they say they will NOT make copies for me Ė just tell Monsieur Mobil that they said it was OK Ė I say itís only 50 yards to his truck can you please tell him for me. Again the hard-eyed stare.

I leave and go a mile down the road to my friendly copy shop to make my own two copies of the customs form. Then back to the boat where I forge the blue ink signatures to make the copy look more authentic.

At 3:00 p.m. Iím back at the Mobil van. I give him my paper and he asks "is this an original?" In true Clintonesque form ("Sex? By which definition?") I say, "Yes" (Original? Yes, itís an original Morgan fake! Besides, you couldnít handle the truth!). He understands "Yes" the way I want him to and I get my 12 gallons of diesel.

Diesel sold this way pays no taxes and is therefore much cheaper, so they are afraid that some unscrupulous person will make lots of Xerox copies and create a black market selling lots of "unauthorized" diesel to the local fishing boats. I donít think I could support myself this way.

Magali comes by at 4:30 p.m. to give me my first French lesson. She brings a paper in French describing the R-3. It contains a lot of strange constructions and business phrases that confuse me. French is a different mindset.

Friday, September 10 --

The constant mewing of a cat wakes me at 4:30 a.m. It sounds pathetic and doesnít quit. Itís coming from the water behind the boat next to me. I take a flashlight and spot a half-drowned cat clinging to a piece of exhaust pipe under the boat.

I get in the dinghy and go over to rescue it. It belongs to a man two boats farther over who doesnít appear to be very excited about my saving it.

About 9:00 a.m. a gray aluminum-hulled boat sailed by a French single-hander pulls into my old spot just to my left. I talk with the skipper, Fabrice, who is a Corsican with a quick sense of humor.

He thinks the French are all closed-minded and not open to new ideas Ė "Like in America," he says. He says the French have a common-response expression about imported things or new ideas: "Impossible! Ce níest pas Francais!" which means, "Thatís impossible! It is not French!"

Later on when I tell him about my French lessons with Magali and my difficulties with the port captains, he tells me to say, "Fais pas chier, síil te plait" or, "Donít piss me off, if you please." He thinks itís funny when I say it.

He then gives me the word for dickhead, "tÍte de Noeud" so Iím ready for my next encounter, but I think I should soften it some. So I create the phrase "nay Ė pa Ė shay Ė tet Ė du Ė noeud Ė s'il vous plait."

He thinks thatís really funny, too, but fine-tunes it by saying that "n'est pas chier" is in the familiar voice, so it should end with "s'il te plait," te being the familiar of vous. Am I learning my French or what!

Spend the afternoon changing oil and all filters. Then I do some good watercolors.

Saturday, September 11 --

Boat work all morning Ė watercolors all afternoon.

Tehiva has invited me to dinner on Pen Kalet. The sanding and grinding on the hull has ended and the painting begun. Theyíve cleaned the boat thoroughly.

Magali makes a vegetable and rice salad with sausage. Dessert is a rich Roquefort cheese mixed on a plate into fresh warm butter and spread on bread. With tea. Very French. We talk about the R-3 and if it will benefit Tahiti. Tehiva doesnít think so.

I ask him about the Tahitian concept of "manna" and he affirms that there used to be powerful priests who could command a thing and it would be so. They could create and Ďmake vanishí at will. His eyes like sharp flint, he knows it was true.

He then starts to explain some of the Mormon stories about the American Indians being a tribe of Israel. The stories are not familiar to me and I find them hard to follow.

Later I read that the Mormons have invested a lot of money and energy in their missions in the South Pacific because of their belief in a link between the Polynesian and American Indian peoples. And that the American Indians are a lost tribe of Israel whose "return" to Mormon knowledge will usher in the new Heaven on earth.

Sunday, September 12 --

The church service this morning is long. Two hours. Iím in the balcony and sketch the hats and people below. It keeps me occupied. The songs are warm and beautiful with deep longing.

The afternoon is spent watercoloring.

At dusk Iím reading below when the bugs arrive. Bugs, bugs, bugs. Thousands of flying ant type things swarm the air around the boat so thickly I can hardly breath without inhaling them.

Their wings are like small, thin, clear-paper petals, and they are falling off. The bodies drop and squirm around on the deck. The wings like dry crystal snow pile up in corners. Below is as bad.

I light three mosquito coils and start trying to shoo them out with charts as fans. Itís not working. They are in my hair, crawling up my shorts and under my T-shirt. A biblical plague. In an hour itís over.

Monday, September 13 --

Spend the entire morning cleaning fly bodies and drifts of fly wings out of the boat.

Tuesday, September 14 --

Today I pull apart the autohelm that stopped working in the Gulf of Panama. I should have done this long ago. I find there are no parts or service on the island; all repairs are sent to New Zealand and take a month to return. Iím leaving well before that, so I carefully wrap the mess up and put it on my list for New Zealand.

Wednesday, September 15 --

After a long day of errands and boat work, I have dinner of macaroni and cheese with a tomato salad. Iím tired and go to bed early. As Iím drifting off I see my libido Ė itís like a distant dream Ė somehow very unreal, an odd memory Ė walking a path in the wood far below the tower from which I view it.

Thursday, September 16 --

Long run this morning, heavy sweat, it feels good. Spend an hour talking to Bernard on Atlantic Fugitive. He warns me that the Mediterranean is the most difficult of all oceans. Force 11-12 storms and flat calms. He says I must see Corsica and Sardinia.

During our French lesson today, Magali gets exasperated because I canít say "bras." (Thatís "arm" -- weíre doing body parts.) She says, "brah"; I say, "braah." She says, "No! Itís Ďbrah!í" I repeat it back exactly, I think. I donít hear the difference and after sounding like two sheep for three minutes she gives up.

Later I ask Fabrice about it. He listens to me and says, "Say it from deep in back of your throat, not from the front of your mouth." It helps and even though it sounds about the same to me, the next day Magali thinks itís better. Speaking from the nose and back of the throat seems silly but they take it very seriously.

Friday, September 17 --

Since Iím leaving next week I decide to start the paperwork early. At the immigration office they stamp my passport and give me papers to take to the bank to reclaim my bond. Go to customs. Donít go to Port Captain. I will see him the actual day I clear out.

At the Bank of Tahiti I present my papers from immigration to the teller along with my bond letter from their bank. He starts to give me Polynesian francs and I ask him how much they are worth in U.S. Dollars. He says $750. I tell him I deposited $850.00 and thatís how much I want back.

He tells me I made my deposit in francs and thatís all he can give me in return. I ask for his supervisor. She explains I made the deposit in francs. I said no, I used my credit card. She said yes, but that was in francs Ė look at your bond letter. I say yes, but at the time, two months ago, my bill from the credit card company was for $850 U.S. dollars, the amount they asked me to put up as bond, and the amount my wife paid from my checking account at home. So thatís the amount I need replaced.

It is my understanding that you hold that money in case of need then return it Ė in full. She says, "If you had paid us in U.S. dollars then we would return the same amount in U.S. dollars but the market now has changed and Iím sorry but you have lost $100."

My stubbornness started rising and I explained that when I spoke to the teller when I came in for the bond I told her I had the U.S. dollars in cash. The teller replied that I could also use my credit card if I wished, and I agreed, thinking it better to keep American cash on hand for the next ports.

But the teller omitted mentioning that by using the card I would be creating a currency-exchange transaction, with a fixed number of francs, not dollars, as my bond. Had she told me that, and I realized I was "investing" in the currency market, I would have simply left my U.S. $850 and settled for getting back U.S. $850, perhaps even the same set-aside pile of bills!

I noted that they made U.S. $50 from me as their transaction fee for the bond paper and I shouldnít be nicked another $100. Iím told to come back at 3:00 p.m. and theyíll see what can be done.

I leave and call Sandy to ask her to track down parts for the autohelm for me, since phone calls from Papeete are expensive. She sounds very busy and stressed. I tell her I donít want to add pressure and it can wait. I realize how much she is doing and handling by herself. I also hear echoes of my own life a year ago.

I return to the bank a half-hour early. The teller says her boss says, "No." I ask to see her boss, and she leads me into an office where a very efficient-looking woman explains the story. I tell her mine. She wants to talk to the original teller.

The office is filling up: the boss, two managers, and now the teller I spoke with eight weeks ago. She remembers me. She is sympathetic and says sheís sorry she didnít explain that I might lose money.

For an hour I repeat my point until the boss says, "OK. Weíll split the difference, 50-50." I say, "No. I want back exactly the amount I gave you Ė in U.S. dollars." She says, "Iíll talk to my boss." And they all march out.

They leave me alone for 15 minutes while they confer in an office in a far corner of the bank. The sub-boss comes back, grim-faced, and tells me, "OK. Weíll give me the money - $850 U.S. dollars."

A manager accompanies me back to the original teller and after a flurry of fast paperwork (itís past closing time), I walk out with the full amount. I try not to grin too much as I leave.

Saturday, September 18 --

Observations. Papeete -- Every morning the sidewalk and street cleaners start at 7:00 a.m. with their noisy leaf-blowers blowing dust and papers along in front of them. All the leaves under every tree are raked up every day. The hose man waters the large boxes of shrubs and flowers every morning. There are ladies who sweep the gutters along the street and laugh and smoke and wear bright flowers behind their ears, every morning.

Papeete, itís the smell of sewage at the east end of the quay. The sound of mourning doves cooing in the trees. The smell of the roulottes drifting across the water. The noise of traffic on Pomore Boulevard during the rush hours. The smoking clouds on the mountain behind town. The watercolors which seem to get better.

Pim on Tonkin has loaned me some charts of the next legs that are larger and more detailed than the ones I have. I bring them to the copy shop.

On the way I pass the large Papeete Market in the center of town. Itís a building that covers a full block and starting between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., trucks with fresh fish, ice, produce, and flowers roll up and the day starts. Colorful, noisy, chaotic -- like a tropical version of Philadelphiaís Reading Market.

There are island arts and crafts on a balconied second floor -- carved shells, sharksí teeth, Hinano beer T-shirts, Pareus, wood carvings, Marquesan war clubs, tapa-cloth designs. I shop for small Christmas gifts.

While there I run into Barbara and Russ Pyros from Tahani. Iíd met Russ and Barbara in Aruba; Russ had made me chicken soup when I wasnít feeling well. I hadnít expected to see them again, so this was a surprise. We went for coffee at Le Retro to sit and catch up.

While they were in the Galapagos they went to the Darwin Station and met Regina Barba and had talked about me. Regina gave them a letter to deliver Ė they had it in their luggage at the hotel.

After sailing Tehani through to Raiatea, they had her hauled at the boatyard there and were going home for the holidays and winter and would return to relaunch and continue cruising in April of 2000. Our chance meeting allowed them to deliver the letter.

Russ also cleared up a small mystery. While I was in Bora Bora, Brian from Oto had come over to Otter in his dinghy just before leaving for Rarotonga to say heíd take the parts I had for a boat called Lindesfarne.

I had no parts, and Brian had forgotten who had asked him to find out if they had been delivered Ė it had been part of a scratchy SSB radio contact. Russ said heíd spoken to Oto from Raiatea and asked if Otter was in Bora Bora. Oto had said, "Yes," and Russ had said, "Ask him about the charts for Lindesfarne: Were they delivered?"

Russ had given me one chart in Aruba that Iíd given to Lindesfarne in Panama and then forgotten about it. Brian thought Russ, in his very heavy Brooklyn accent, was saying "parts," not "charts," and Russ stopped trying to correct him. So that loose end was tied. The kidsí game of telephone played at sea.

We have a wonderful dinner at the new Outrigger Hotel with Barbara and Russ that evening. The letter from Regina is sweet and includes two drawings of Academy Bay that capture its spirit.

The night is cool and soft and back in the boat I fall into dreams where Iím speaking fluent French with Bridget Bardot.

Sunday, September 19 --

Today in church its sober white-shirt, blue-skirts, and pants day. From the balcony, sketching, I have a vision of a large painting of all the pews full of people in different attitudes. I see Reginald Marsh and his Brooklyn beach scenes and "High Yaller" and wonder if Iím seeing clearly or through stereotypes.

Monday, September 20 --

Work on the box of stuff Russ said heíd ship to Sandy from Long Island when they got home, saving me the freight charges from Tahiti. Late afternoon I go to the Outrigger Hotel to bring them the box and we have coffee in the courtyard by the pool.

Russ and Barbara have a deep warmth and charm. They spent the day with Gerard, the port captain. To my surprise Gerard has shown them his racing canoes and driven them around the island as their host. Russ says heíll put in a word for me. This is an unexpected side of "Gerard," the port captain who now has a name.

Dinner is with Kristin Sandvik. Kristin struck up a conversation earlier in the day when she saw me on board and the American flag flying on the staff on the transom. Otter is the only American boat left on the quay.

Our conversation continues at the Roulottes. She has been cruising for three or four years and gotten from Seattle to New Zealand. Sheíd been home to the States and is in Tahiti for a few days on her way back to New Zealand. Kristin is tall, has short-cropped hair, and is trying to locate her Tuomotuan family.

She was "adopted," too, and wants to see her "mom" and "sister," who is pregnant. She reinforces what Iíve picked up about Polynesian adoptions: she feels as committed to her Tuamotuan family as she does to her real family.

She, like Magali, has thoughts of pearl farming. Later I hook the two up, but the connection doesnít take.

Kristin was partners in a boat with a daughter of Steve and Linda Dashew, who are well-known in the boating world. They design and build the Deerfoot and Sundeer yachts, which are highly regarded as fast passage-makers.

She sailed her 37í yacht to Wellington and is not sure whatís next, but has resources to go for another two or three years before returning to the world. We talk about relationships.

In this floating life, sheís finding it difficult to make lasting commitments. And Mr. Right hasnít appeared. I reassure her that Tahiti is the place. Robin Lee Graham of Dove fame (the 16-year-old who sailed around the world in the 60ís) met his wife Patti in Tahiti. Tania Aebi met her husband Olivier in Tahiti Ė Marlon Brando, etc., the list goes on. Sheís not so sure.

Tuesday, September 21 --

Thursday is departure day. Spend all day on preparations, including my last French lesson from Magali. She has written me a poem in French about how our dreams are the wind in our sails and the engines of our lives, and how sheís glad we have been able to share our two dreams together Ė pearls and sailing. She has me write out my recipe for banana pancakes in French for her.

Wednesday, September 22 --

Last day before departure. I reorganize the forepeak, yet again! I remember meeting Philander Wallace in Bermuda Ė the first solo circumnavigator Iíd met. He said, of his name, "My wife says my name means Ďto make love without serious intent,í and thatís me."

He also said that it wasnít until he reached Tahiti that he managed to get a handle on organizing and knowing where his gear was in the forepeak. Same for me. Itís finally under control, sort of.

By late afternoon Otter feels ready to go. The day is warm and bright. The sadness of departure floods the afternoon sunlight.

At the port captainís office, "Girardís place," I apply for my Permis de Sortie Ė clearance papers. Gerard is scowling at his computer screen when I enter.

I mention that Russ told me about his racing canoe and showed me photos. Gerardís face lights up, he smiles and is a different man. He seems boyish. He says what a wonderful friend Russ is and adds, "So let me see what we can do about your quay fees."

He fusses with the computer keyboard and comes up with a number that is about $150 less than I expected. He hasnít charged me for Tehivaís space! We both smile and shake hands and he encourages me to return to Tahiti some time. I feel the umbrella of Russí warmth over us both.

Magali had stopped by earlier and as itís my last night weíd agreed to meet at 6:00 p.m. at the visitorís center and from there to go to the Roulottes. Iíd been my usual slightly tardy self when getting together in the past. But today I was at the Visitorís Center ten minutes early. Tehiva and Magali show up at five of, and Tehiva looks at his watch in amazement. I tell him it took a while to understand that Tahitians are very punctual Ė not like folks in the Caribbean. He laughs.

The Roulottes have moved out of the parking area by the cruise ships and to a parking area behind the port captainís office. It had been used during July for the Celebration events and after the structures and performance stadium were disassembled, the Roulottes moved back to their year-round space.

I order the poisson cru Chinoise, again. Iíve become addicted. Then to another Roulotte for dessert. We talk of the pearl farm and we talk of Taaroa, the Polynesian overgod who Tehiva says was the same god of the Book of Mormon.

He tells me the stories in the Book of Mormon are all true, but that a lot of the stories in the Bible were not translated properly, so their truthfulness was lost or altered in the process. Joseph Smith, being the direct prophet of God, brought back the truth.

I feel again the beauty of Tehiva and Magaliís relationship. I feel a warmth in their company. Simple Ė stern Ė childlike Ė believing in dreams, and miracles. They say they will come by to see me off tomorrow.

Later I arrange for Kristin and Fabrice and me to go to Le Retro. Fabrice has a beer. I have a cafť grand au lait and Kristin has a fish burger. I think that they may be a match and a new Tahitian romance will start. Fabrice is funny and bright and clear and present. He says he wants to sail and stay free Ė unless of course, he intones in the very Frenchest of ways, he should meet a woman and fall in love.

Kristin and he swap sailing stories, but I can sense sheís not quite at ease; Mr. Right must be farther down the road.

I go to sleep early. Tomorrowís the big day.

Thursday, September 23 --

7:00 a.m. Cast off bowlines and pull in the two anchor lines. The lines are really dirty, they gather lots of brown muck sitting in the harbor water. They make a big mess in the cockpit.

It takes me 30 minutes to break the big fortress anchor free Ė itís dug deeply into the mud. For a while, I was afraid Iíd have to hire a diver to recover it.

I motor to the fuel dock and use my "original" customs papers to buy fuel again, this time also needing to leave copies of my clearance papers. I take on water and start to wash down the mess.

Tehiva and Magali come by in their Otter T-shirts and give me shell leis. My eyes get wet and we kiss, French fashion, on two cheeks. Tehivaís beard is really stubbly. He gets a little choked up and has to leave. Magali stays for a few minutes, then leaves, too.

I return to scrubbing and cleaning, hard work, until 12:15 p.m. A quick lunch of cheese, tomatoes, and mayo. I start the engine and cast off for Moorea at 12:30 p.m. The day is clear and sunny.

Iím happy to be moving and take a last look at the harbor and the black sand beach with the Pink Church as I let out the Genoa full to the breeze. Clearing the pass, to starboard there are surfers near the breakwater.

I think of all the explorers and whalers clearing this same pass over the last 200 years. All those New England whalers returning with their stories to winter hearths, as will I.

Moorea is clear on the horizon.

Friday, September 24 --

Last night I anchored near the reef outside Cook's Bay in 10 feet of clear water over white sand.

This morning I wake early to a soft, cool breeze. Iím almost alone in this anchorage. I feel an incredible quiet and stillness after being at the quay so long.

Sunlight fills the cabin, reflections of water on the cabin roof, dancing. A dinghy zips by with an 11-year-old boy and his Mom with no top.

The day becomes hot. I write postcards and journal notes. Out the porthole is clear blue to the horizon with a trim curl of white by the edge of the reef.

In the afternoon I swim and clean the harbor scum off the sides of the boat. I dive and clean the rudder and prop. I practice diving under the keel as Iíve been reading that in Tonga, in Marinerís Cave, the only entrance is eight feet deep and 12 feet across before coming up into the Grotto.

As Iím scrubbing below the water line I see three large puffer fish come close to investigate me. They are over two feet long and have very large speckled box-like heads with enormous yellow eyes and tiny tails and fins. They seem almost human in their gaze, directly fixing me. Itís a bit unsettling. They remind me of the paintings by Olidon Redon of human heads with tiny wings floating in space.

Monday, September 27 --

The slight thought I had of going back to visit Bora Bora a last time fades. Iíve decided to go directly from here to Rarotonga.

Cutting all my connections is difficult. I donít engage other sailors in conversations; Iím in a disconnect mode.

I write last postcards. Check e-mail one last time. I feel like a walking ghost, empty, thin, transparent. People look through me as if Iím not here.

I call Sandy to tell her Iím leaving for Rarotonga. I get her machine. Still not connecting.

I leave a message that it will be a six to 12 day passage and Iíll call when I arrive. Passages now seem to be becoming routine Ė no big deal.

I spend my last francs on sunflower seeds and small grocery items. I stop in the gift shop where Sandy bought her pereu two months ago. Iím surprised that the French woman/artist remembers me. I buy a shell turtle. Something in our short conversation must have struck her because she spontaneously gives me two small shell leis and looks hard at me as she wishes me a safe voyage.

Iím drifting.

Itís time to go.

End of Report Eleven

 

 

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