Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Au Revoir!

Well, after Hakahetau we pulled around to the “big” village of Hakahau, still on the island of Ua Pou, and spent a very relaxing week doing not much in general. The islands were out of butane, so we had to wait for the supply ship to come in before we could fill our two bottles for the month or six weeks of cooking that lay between us and Tahiti, the next place we can stock up. For a couple of days we visited with our neighbors in the anchorage, Manuela and Alessandro from Adaro, who are expecting new crew in about six months. “That was fun,” I said to Alisa as we waved goodbye to the departing Adaro. “We got to hang out with Italians without actually going to Italy and feeling bad about our shoes.” And we met Aline and Philippe, French expats with a three year old and a five month old, and formed a fast friendship. Aline and Philippe lived aboard for eight years before the advent of kids forced them to swallow the anchor. Amazing how quickly you can establish a friendship when you’re traveling and meet someone else with little kids.

We’ve now been in the Marquesas for forty-one days. We finally got our bottles filled with butane yesterday, and plan to go back to Daniel’s Bay today for water and fruit, and then on to the Tuomotus. We hope to be in the Tuomotus for four or five weeks, and don’t expect to have any internet access while there. So this will likely be the longest spell yet without any posts on the blog. But we should have plenty to report when we get back online, so hopefully the wait will be worth it…

A Marquesan tattoo.

Ua Pou You

This is our view of the island of Ua Pou as we sailed in. Ua Pou is pronounced “wa-poo”.

Our first stop was the village of Hakahetau. I imagine this valley must be one of the most beautiful settings for a village that you could find anywhere.

It is also a very friendly village. Here Holler Hokaupoko kindly shows Alisa and Elias his tattoos.

Alisa went to church on Sunday and had a convivial, though entirely non-verbal, interaction with the woman in pink. Left to right: U’u, Kavehei, Fabienne.

We were invited to Holler’s house twice for lunch. Here he is making coconut milk. We cook with coconut milk quite often back home in Alaska, but our method of preparation relies heavily on a can opener.

Holler told us that there are fifty varieties of breadfruit on Ua Pou. The top one in this picture is Puero, the one on the right is Kuuhaa, and Holler didn’t know the name of the one on the left.

Holler roasted the breadfruit over a coconut husk fire.

Back on the boat that night, Alisa sliced one up and fried it in oil – delicious with ketchup.

The sunsets were a highlight of our days at Hakahetau. Providentially, Eli napped through the sunset twice while we were here, giving us the chance to have a cocktail in the cockpit and watch the show, just as yachties are meant to.

We also took some great hikes in the mountains.

And we walked to the local waterfall. Cruising the Marquesas sometimes seems to boil down to getting fruit for your boat and hiking to various waterfalls. Alisa was very happy with the way this photo turned out, as she ought to be.

I also went hunting with Holler’s brother, Atai. We got up at 0300, just as we would if we were deer hunting on Kodiak in August, and we spent the morning hiking around the head of the valley. The game in the Marquesas are feral domesticated animals, and people hunt exclusively with .22s.

Atai insisted on taking this picture of me. When I look at it, I find it instructive to see how fixed my smile had become by this point in the day. During our hunt Atai shot at a pig and missed, shot at and hit a goat but did not follow the blood trail and so did not bring it home, and shot at and missed a chicken. In my head I was starting to call Ua Pou “old MacDonald’s ecosystem”. That was before we came across four wild horses and Atai said, “I kill one”. Great, I thought. He’s going to shoot a horse with a .22 right in front of me. But Atai held off.

This is what was carved in the butt of Atai’s rifle. “Hoka” is short for Hokaupoko, his surname. “Teikimaakautoua” is Marquesian. He translated it as “king think war”.

This is the scar that a boar left on one of Atai’s dogs.

Holler and Atai’s father, Etienne, is mentioned in one of our cruising guides as being very friendly to cruisers. That he is, but at times we also got a whiff of the “professional friend” from our interactions with his family. Etienne seemed tired and withdrawn the two times that we had lunch at his house. But Holler explained to us that he had many sailor friends (“You know ____ ?” he asked us, naming a semi-famous American sailor. “She sleep here – in my room,” he said, with the biggest grin in all the Marquesas.), and that his father would eventually pass along to Holler the business of taking care of the yachts.

When Holler first invited us to lunch he said, “I invite you, so you do not pay.” Atai later invited us to dinner at his house, and I accepted, but Holler later explained that since we were invited we would pay only 500 francs each instead of a thousand. We begged off, and invited Holler out to the boat for dinner instead. There was another time when we were starting to visit with someone else in the village and got snatched away for another lunch with Etienne and Holler, and we began to feel a bit as if our visit to the village was being managed. Meanwhile the no-nos were making Alisa miserable, with little red welts all over her arms and legs that she had very little luck at not scratching. We had some great interactions with people in the village, everything from invites to visit people’s houses, to help getting ourselves off the dinghy at the very tricky wharf with our one year old and our water jugs. But our interactions with the village were also starting to feel a little sticky – we were getting more interaction than we wanted at times, and felt we might be building up obligations with Etienne and Holler and Atai that we didn’t want to meet.

So we decided to leave. The last night we were anchored up in Hakahetau, Alisa made pizza and we had Holler out to the boat for dinner. And we had a great time. I pointed out the Big Dipper in the north, above Nuku Hiva, and with the help of our Alaskan flag and a prop from the galley, explained our name for the constellation, and that it is a symbol of Alaska, and that it appears upside-down to our eyes in the southern hemisphere. Holler loved the pizza. He asked if Alisa had made it in the same way that he had made Marquesan food for us at his house, and when I said yes he said it was the best pizza he had ever tasted, much better than the pizza he used to buy in Pape’ete. Holler lived in Tahiti for ten years, learned Tahitian, worked at the Radisson, married a Tahitian, had a daughter, got divorced, and came back to Hakahetau.

“To live in Tahiti, not possible,” he explained. “I am crazy. No land, no business, no mango tree, no breadfruit tree. Here I can eat without buying. In Tahiti it cost me 5,000 francs each day to eat.”

He went on to explain that the only drawback to living in Hakahetau was that there were no jobs. He said that in 1980 the population of the village had been 1,000 people but that so many had left for work that it was now 200.

The evening went on. We were eating in the cockpit, under a skyfull of stars. After we were done eating Elias came up to the cockpit and I gave him a horsey ride on my knee.

“What song you sing?” asked Holler. It took me quite a while to realize that he was asking me what I was saying to Elias as I dandled him on my knee – I hadn’t thought of “giddyup, giddyup, let’s go” as a song, but I suppose it is. So I got the chance to explain cowboys and the etymology of “giddyup.”

“I like this very much, learning life of American people,” said Holler. After a minute I asked him how long he had been speaking English, and he said, “one year.”

Not too much later I rowed him back to the wharf. That dinner on Pelagic was such a great way to end our visit in Hakahetau. I got to see Holler as a straightforward island guy who was naturally friendly and curious, spoke four languages, didn’t know much of the world outside of French Polynesia, and just wanted to be friends with the people who came to visit his bay.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tai Pi

We sailed from Baie Anaho to Baie de Tai-pi, where Herman Melville’s novel Typee is set. Once there we went ashore looking for someone to trade with for fruit. We found Dolores, who gave us tons of fruit – pamplemous, mangoes, oranges, bananas, and tava, which are something like lychee nuts. She also gave Eli the necklace he is wearing here, which she made herself, and a matching one for Alisa. She wasn’t really interested in trading, but we hoped to reciprocate a little, and so gave her cigarettes and a retired staysail sheet.

There is something a little acquisitive about this kind of experience for sailors in the Marquesas. Produce in the stores is imported, very expensive and of a quality not to get excited about. On the other hand, the islands are groaning with some of the most exquisite fruit in the world. But visitors cannot just hike into the woods and pick their own – every tree, everywhere, is assigned ownership. So you have to get fruit through your interactions with the locals, either buying it or trading for it or being given it. Alisa and I were very happy to get all this fresh fruit for the barky, since it meant days and days of good eating. But we were also just flabbergasted by the generosity of Dolores and her son, Jan. We walked into their yard uninvited, speaking almost nothing of their two languages. When I said, “fruit”, which is spelled the same but pronounced “fwui” in French, they latched on to this as the first intelligible word I had come up with and suddenly got themselves busy running around the yard to pick fruit out of their trees to give us. Incredible.

We made arrangements to visit the famous local paepae with Jan the next day. When we arrived at their house Elias was overjoyed, because…

… Jan had saddled up his horse so that Eli wouldn’t have to walk the four kilometers each way to the paepae. Jan was amazed that it was Eli’s first horse ride. “They start late in Alaska,” he thought to himself. Eli turned out to be a good rider. He sat up strait and clicked his tongue in the proper way and said “brown horse, brown horse” over and over and only cried when we took him off.

These paepae were ceremonial sights, if I understood Jan correctly. They were very impressive, relics of a time when the coastal valleys of Nuku Hiva were each populated by societies that were constantly at war with each other.
We saw ancient tikis.

Jan showed us the stone where captives from other valleys were killed before being eaten. Cannibalism occurred here, but Jan explained to us that it was only people captured from other valleys who were eaten.
Jan stopped on the trail back to climb a tree and pick us pistach, which are small purple fruits that leave your mouth a little numb, completely unlike pistachios. He also picked vi for us, which look like mangoes but are more fibrous and tart, and korosole, a fruit for which we had no reference in our previous experience.
This is the korosole a few days later, after it had ripened up. Tasted way better than it looks. Marquesan fruit makes the fruit of the rest of the world seem pretty poor. Granny Smith apples just aren’t going to do it for me anymore.

Elias fell asleep on the way back. The horse’s name is Chanti, and Elias still says “Chanti horse” every time I give him a horsey ride on my knee. These horsey rides are incredibly popular affairs on board, commencing before breakfast and not ceasing until bedtime – a great way to burn off a one year old’s energy in the confines of a sailboat ten feet ten inches wide. In addition to invoking Chanti’s name, Eli still points to his back to show me that he rode on Chanti’s back, and he says “reigns!” and shows me how he held them. And the actual horse ride was now nineteen days ago.

A couple of days later we hiked up to this picnic table on the ridge above our anchorage.

We had a great view of the yachts anchored below. We spent six days in Baie de Tai-pi, and during that time the number of anchored yachts fluctuated between one and nine. When there were no other boats in the bay to cast light on the water we had some incredible displays of bioluminescence at night. The barky was surrounded by schools of feeding fish, with each individual leaving a trail of ghost light in its wake. I remember thinking that it was the only time in my life that I’ve seen the surface of the water truly alive with fish. Pelagic is the furthest right in this picture.

We also had a great view of the valleys of the interior. For anyone who has read Typee recently enough to remember it, this is a view looking down into the Hapaa Valley, which forms one of the three bays at the head of Baie de Tai-Pi. We were anchored off of the Taipi Vaii valley, where the action of Typee occurs, and where Dolores and Jan live today.

Elias unfortunately had had enough of tourism at this point.

Two days later we sailed away from Baie de Tai Pi and the island of Nuku Hiva. The Marquesas are like Hawaii in an alternate universe. Like the Hawaiian Islands, they are geologically young islands of Oceania, high and volcanic, clustered together in an archipelago that is separated from all other land by extremely great distances. But unlike Hawaii, there is no urbanization, the population is overwhelmingly Polynesian, and everyone speaks the indigenous language.

Baie Anaho

This is Baie Anaho, on the north side of Nuku Hiva Island. We arrived just before dark and ended up anchoring three times to get our position right in the middle of the yachts squeezed into the corner of the bay. If you look very closely to the left of the yachts you might be able to see the passage blasted through the reef to the beach.

Ten people live here. We stayed for four days.

We were going to do laundry on our first day. Luckily Sonsie invited us to walk over the ridge and to the village in the next bay. This is what the hike looked like.

And this is the village we walked to, Hatiheu. It has a stunning setting, strung along a long beachfront with booming surf. Little kids were swimming in the waves, and when one of them spotted a shark I was interested to see that the shark sign they use to warn each other is basically the same shark sign that we teach Eli, hands held over the head to symbolize a dorsal fin.

It was May Day and there was a celebration in the village. One of the main events was a petanque tournament held on the main drag, entry fee 1,000 CFP per team, first prize a bag of lobsters.

I got these pictures of the petanque players. People playing games or musical instruments make great subjects because they are concentrating so hard on what they're doing and cannot easily be distracted by the camera.

This little girl was watching.

As was this little boy, when he wasn’t eating.

This four wheeler was parked under the pavilion where we were hanging out. This is what you call global brand recognition for our own island home.

The people back in Anaho were very friendly, but we had a hard time getting to know anyone because of the language barrier and because so many yachties come and go through the anchorage during the season. In this situation the outnumbered locals either tend to ignore the visitors or become professional friends, trading local contact for some sort of material return. The clichéd metaphor for cross-cultural contact in histories of the South Pacific is “crossing the beach” – the beach as the boundary between European seagoing cultures and local island cultures. For a couple of days I was determined to cross the beach in Anaho and break through the more normal yachtie-local interaction.

I helped unload a local boat that had brought people and supplies from Taiohae. A half dozen other people were ferrying loads in across the calf-deep water between boat and beach, but no one would make eye contact with me. Afterwards, a big bearded biker-looking fellow named Ta’aroa helped me carry jerry jugs of water back to our dinghy. It seemed like we had made a friend, but the next day when Alisa took Ta’aroa a loaf of bread she had baked, he said he wasn’t hungry.

Alisa felt brought up short by this refusal of her gift in this place where the habit of giving is so deeply perfused in the culture.

“Maybe he just wasn’t hungry?” I suggested.

“I know, I thought of that. But then I just felt so stupid, standing on the beach in front of this group of men with a loaf of bread in my hand.”

“Maybe he didn’t want to have to reciprocate?”

“I thought of that, too. It’s just so hard to know what’s going on.”

“Maybe we should leave tomorrow.”

“I was thinking the same thing.”

And so we availed ourselves of the great right of yachties: our dispensation, if the locals don’t feel like getting down with us, or if we feel like seeing something different, or just for no reason at all, to move on. Every bay we visit is at first full of the promise of somewhere that we have never been before, and then, a few days later, becomes a place that we will likely never see again.

That night I went in for more water. A group of teachers and students was visiting from Pape’ete, sleeping in tents on the beach and getting down with their Marquesan brethren. People were eating under the tin-roofed pavilion just behind the beach, and a local man named Michel, hugely obese with a thick black mustache and shaved head, sent me home with a dozen bananas and a kilo of barbecued goat meat. I rowed back through the gap in the reef in the gathering dark, listening to Ta’aroa and two other men and a woman playing music under a palm tree. They played two guitars and a ukulele and the spoons and they sat strait-backed on the beach, looking out to the bay where boats from all over the world arrive for no reason and then go, in the way that sailing vessels have visited this bay and these islands and these people for two hundred years. They sat strait-backed, their strumming arms moving in unison, and sang out to the bay with their heads tilted so that they might have been looking at the mountains on the other side of the bay or at the stars. The reedy, vowel-rich singing voice of the Marquesas followed me out over the dark water. Music that said, “we’re still here.”

Alisa and Elias and I made our own little feast of goat and bananas that night on the hospitality of Michel. We left the next day a little baffled at the friendliness of the people we had met, and the wall across the beach that we could not cross.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Nuku Hiva Redemption

We sailed out of Baie Taiohae under catastrophically low group morale. After the fact it’s hard to remember how low we got, or why. I can list the factors at work. Chronically screaming toddler. Confined space. Intractable mechanical problems. Bad feelings that bounced back and forth between Alisa and me. Despair of ever making the trip work.

All this less than two weeks after the all-time high of our passage to the Marquesas. Almost all you hear about cruising is the good stuff. We might be more prone to the downs because of the inevitable pressures of taking on such a big adventure with a completely dependent little person at the center of our lives. Whatever the case, the lows do come along. There is no magic bullet.

We sailed out of Baie Taiohae and we were instantly in the trade winds again, bounding along with the wind behind us and picturesque tropical whitecaps all around. Our next anchorage, Baie Tai Oa, or Daniel’s Bay, was only about five miles away. I went below to the head to try to get the watermaker working. Alisa stayed in the cockpit with Elias sitting in his car seat and the Monitor steering Pelagic. I came up after a fruitless forty-five minutes of sweating in the head, trying to diagnose an airlock in the feed line.

“How’s it going?” Alisa asked.

“Don’t ask. How’s it going here?”

“Not bad. I think we need to get around that point there,” she said, nodding at a distant landmark.

I went down to plot our position on the chart. Five minutes later I came back up.
“Our course is 020 magnetic,” I announced. I looked at the compass and pointed to the direction we wanted to be going, which was almost perfectly the opposite direction from where we were actually sailing. Alisa had been kicking back in the cockpit with Eli, grooving over the feeling of sailing again and being free of Taiohae, and had sailed right by Baie Tai Oa. Who knows how long it would have taken the little light bulb over her head to light up if I hadn’t intervened.

Spirited discussion then ensued about how our destination on one hand couldn’t be almost straight behind us, and yet, on the other hand, was. Reference was also made to the apparent intention on one person’s part to just sail the four hundred miles to the Tuomotu Islands without consulting the other person first.

“No matter how much grief I give you over this, it probably isn’t enough,” I said.

What ever else it was, this grotesque yet harmless navigational error was good for lightening the mood on board. We turned the boat around back into the wind, and hunted for the entrance to the bay in the imposing lava cliffs that ring the southwest corner of Nuku Hiva. The bay wasn’t obvious from the outside, and the breakers crashing into the cliffs on both sides of us didn’t make it feel like a place to bring the barky in for a closer look. But we trusted the chart, and the GPS, and pulled into the gap in the cliffs and found ourselves in, well, paradise.

Looking back at the entrance to Daniel's Bay.

The mountain wall that surrounded the southern half of the bay began as a jumble of impassable cliffs and angled plains covered with thin verdure. Further up the valley it progressed into a vertical jungle interspersed with incredibly precipitous fins of eroded lava. Towering palm trees at the base shrank into insignificance beneath the mountain wall, lending scale to the sight. Swell rolled into one arm of the bay, where a little village is located. Alisa pulled down the mainsail and I steered into the other arm. The calm water and the simple open-walled house on the beach contrasted with the overwrought splendor of the lava mountains behind us.

Looking up the valley from the anchorage.

We anchored and shut down. The jury-rigged engine had passed its first test. Elias and I fished off the bow while Alisa cooked dinner. Six other boats were anchored in the bay. After the sun set our friends from Sonsie came over in the dinghy to say hello and recommend the local walk up to the base of a 350 m waterfall, meant to be the third highest in the world. “I’ve hiked in a whole lot of places,” said Rod. “But this is the most beautiful hike that I’ve ever been on in my life. The guy who lives on the beach is named Tonga. Wonderful guy.”

The next morning we rowed ashore early, hoping to beat the tourists from Taiohae that were rumored to reach the falls every day at noon. We found Tonga outside his house, tending to his horses. Determined to do things right on our first trip ashore at a little village, we had brought along a couple of fishhooks as a gift for Tonga and asked for his permission to use the trail to the waterfall.


The hike lived up to Rod’s billing. We followed the trail to the other arm of the bay, across a river to the dirt road through the village, where we met Monette, a middle-aged woman who promised us fruit when we came back from la cascade. After the dirt road left the village it joined with an ancient Marquesan road, reputedly the king’s road, leading to the upper reaches of the valley. After we left the village the lava cliffs on either side of the valley closed in on one another. We wound our way past ruined paepae that were slowly succumbing to the jungle, memories of the past glory of this place. Paepae are lava-stone platforms that pre-contact Marquesan buildings were set upon. Marquesas swiftlets and white-capped fruit doves, both endemic to the Marquesas, fluttered overhead in the valley, as did fairy terns and tropicbirds. When we reached the waterfall, we found it shrunk to an insignificant trickle by the demise of the wet season. But the lava walls on either side of us rose overhanging above us for a thousand feet. The tourists from Taiohae never showed up and aside from the three locals we had seen on the hike we might have been alone in our own tropical paradise.

“Alone in our own tropical paradise,” I announced as I lowered Eli from my back and wrung the sweat out of my shirt. “So that’s nice.”

“But not quite alone,” said Alisa. “There’s no-nos.”

I looked down at my legs and saw a cloud of the tiny biting flies that make the Marquesas a famously bad choice for beach vacations. No-nos lie thick on most Marquesan beaches, and, apparently, around Marquesan waterfalls, too.

“That’s not all,” I said, pointing at the cloud of insects around Eli’s tender visage. “Mosquitos.”

“At least there’s swimming,” said Alisa, nodding at the big pool of fresh water beneath the falls.

I walked over to the pool for a closer look. “Eel,” I reported. The folks on Sonsie had passed along a rumor about really big fresh water eels in the pool beneath the falls. For once the rumor was outrun by reality. “The size of a log,” I elaborated.

“I think I’ll skip the swim,” said Alisa.

We ate cheese and pilot bread and pamplemous, the champion citrus fruit of the Marquesas. And then we ran from the bugs.

Aside from the wildlife, though, all was very good. Outstanding tropical scenery, the ruins of a mysterious culture, and the descendants of that culture, still living in the valley, still speaking the Marquesan language. And the three of us. Not a bad mix for your average Wednesday.

Dad: "This is great!"

Little boy: "What country is this?"

Fording a stream.

A ruined paepae.

The valley got really narrow.

The eel.

The boy, touristed out.

On the way back we spoke with Augustine, who was cutting coconuts for copra. He was a big man, tattooed and wearing a boar’s tusk necklace and, incongruously to our eyes, a knit hat and sweatshirt. He sat in the woods by a fire of coconut husks that gave of a pungent, disagreeable odor that I have come to associate with the Marquesan bush. He held a machete in one hand, and a pile of cut-open coconuts was by his feet. We communicated with my handful of French words and lots of gesticulation. He explained that the copra is shipped to Pape’ete, he is paid 110 CFP per kilo, and can collect 1,000 kilos a week. That works out to $ 1,500 US in a week, at the rate we got from the bank when we posted bond. Not bad, though a six pack in Taiohae costs eighteen bucks.

I also came away from our talk with Augustine with a feeling that I’ve since felt in other bays that used to be heavily populated but then went through paroxysms of violence and epidemic and cultural disintegration and are now the homes of a few descendants of the survivors. I get the impression, accurate or not, of people like Augustine crouching in the ruins of a civilization that has become mysterious to them. As my child’s children’s children might some day.

Augustine. The fire is to keep the no-nos from bodily carrying him away.
We continued down the track and came to Monette’s place. As promised, she gave us bananas and limes and pamplemous, all that we could carry. When you speak almost none of a country’s language there is great variability in how well the locals can communicate with you. Some, like Augustine, zero in on the few words that you know and pantomime up a storm so that you almost feel like you’re conversing, while others, like Monette, just repeat the same phrases that you don’t understand over and over. So we were a little hard pressed to understand her abundant gift. The kitchen of her house almost looked like a little restaurant, and we wondered if she was selling us the fruit. I guess that trade and commerce are a lot easier for us to understand than the sort of generosity that entails gifts to strangers who happen to be walking by your house. Alisa gave Monette a lighter from her backpack, and Monette accepted it, but with an indifference that said she didn’t really expect anything from us. And then we said goodbye, a little baffled by the interaction.

Monette's house.

When we made it back to Tonga’s beach we found the husband and wife crew of Backlash, a west coast U.S. boat, with their dinghy on the beach next to ours. The man was thin and frowning, with a face that reminded me of timeless advice of my mother’s.

Years ago, when I was a little lad, my dear mom said, “Never trust someone with a mouth like a chicken’s asshole.”

The man asked us about the walk. How far was it? Was the waterfall worth seeing? I explained that the waterfall was nearly dry but the walk was fantastic. He didn’t look convinced.

“The fellow who lives here sells mangoes,” he said. “Five hundred francs for eight of them. Not even fruit is cheap in this paradise.” He put the last word in finger quotes.

We started talking about the Tuomotus. They were going soon. I repeated Pierre’s recommendation to stay a week or more at each atoll to make the visit worthwhile.

“Well, that’s not going to happen,” he answered. After a pause he added, “It’s rough that we have to go to sea again for four days to get there, right after the three weeks it took us just to get here. They should make these islands closer to each other.” He laughed briefly, a sound like pebbles rattling in a can, laughing at himself for making such an improbable complaint, but also complaining nonetheless. “We can’t wait to get to the Societies. Tahiti, Bora Bora.”

I was deriving a weird pleasure from the conversation, something like that which a dedicated foody gets from a dish that is very nearly, but not quite, revolting. But Elias chose that moment to rub a fistful of sand in his right eye, and a quick retreat to the solace of Tonga’s hose was called for.

“I think I came up with a South Pacific cruiser personality litmus test,” said Alisa as she walked next to me towards Tonga’s house. I was carrying Elias and trying to keep him from rubbing the sand further into his eye. “Beware those who look forward to Tahiti and Bora Bora.”

Tahiti and Bora Bora are famous among travelers for having all the charm of Waikiki, or the Jersey Shore.

“I know it,” I said. “Some people just can’t relax and enjoy themselves in paradise.”

We smiled at each other.

At Tonga’s, Elias submitted manfully to a blast to the face from the hose, coming up spluttering and smiling. The hose was fed by a waterline from the mountains. There is no electricity in Daniel’s Bay and many of the other sparsely settled bays that we have since visited, though some houses do have solar power. But there’s always running water, usually in the form of a standpipe in the yard, fed from a source in the hills.

Elias, the sand in his eye forgotten, checks out Tonga's copra supply.

Tonga gave us a sack of beautiful mangoes, “for the boy!” and several pamplemous. The crew of a Swedish boat was also ashore at Tonga’s. I thought of getting a good picture of Tonga but the Swedish man was already firing away with his Nikon D200, physically adjusting Tonga’s stance to highlight his tattoos. The days when only a few boats worked their way down the South Pacific trades every year are now decades past, and we often have to share our interaction time with the locals. I’ve started to call this effect the Yachtie Scrum. If you’re not careful you can find yourself surrounded by English-speaking yachties on every beach, which ends any chance of overcoming the language barrier with individual Marquesans.

Then a South African crew came ashore. It would have been fun to just hang out and mingle with the other cruisers, but Elias was operating on a very short fuse and it was time to retreat to the boat.

We were hot and thirsty after hours of walking and Alisa was starting to suffer from her no-no bites. Elias began squalling on the way back to Pelagic and Alisa and I were trapped in the little rowboat, forced to listen to every incoherent syllable of one-year-old angst. By the time we were back on Pelagic, the mood was in danger of going sour.

“I’ve got an idea,” I said. “Let’s close our eyes and imagine that we’re anchored in a bay in some tropical paradise. In our own yacht. With coconut trees on the beach and the sound of lapping waves all around us. Maybe that will help.”

After we got Elias asleep Alisa and I sat in the cockpit drinking gin and lime juice beneath the stars. Savoring the feeling of having suddenly arrived in this sparsely occupied dreamscape. The kind of place that should be famous around the world, but isn’t. The kind of place that delivers the tropical elixir that Hawaii and Tahiti can only promise. Daniel’s Bay.

“They were so friendly,” said Alisa. “Tonga and Monette and Augustine.”

“And we’re only five miles from Taiohae.”

“Where no one will look us in the eye.”

"You always hear about the indolence of the South Pacific. But did you notice how everyone we saw today was doing some kind of work?"

“What an incredible day. Imagine how difficult it would be to get here if you didn’t have your own yacht, what it would cost.”

“A lot less than it did for us with a yacht.”

“Yep, a lot less.”

The next day we got going early and sailed around the west and north sides of Nuku Hiva to a place called Baie Anaho. We had calms and then stiff winds right on the nose and we caught a beautiful tuna. The north side of the island was a mix of vaporous mists and incredibly steep lava plugs and spires. We buried the rail of first one side of the boat and then the other as we tacked towards Anaho. We pulled into the bay just at dusk, satisfied with a great daysail and mystified at the good fortune that found the three of us circumnavigating a little island named Nuku Hiva, where the people are friendly and the scenery is beautiful and the fruit grows everywhere.

We dropped the hook in Anaho, uncertain how long we would stay. And everything that happened there is part of another story.

The north shore of Nuku Hiva.

The crew, bringing Pelagic into Anaho at dusk.

The end.