Three events of some significance happened this weekend.
Stof and I upped anchor and tootled around the coast (in rather despicable weather) to another bay a few miles away. Then we dropped anchor in the bucketing rain and headed indoors… only to be summoned a half hour later (when we were dry, naturally) to reset our anchor that had dragged in a burst of wind.
The significance is that we did it all by ourselves. On Friday morning we visited the gendarme and transferred Krispers to another captain’s vigilant eye (it is the captain’s responsibility to make sure people don’t jump ship and stay in French Poly forever).
For a couple embarking on a voyage to explore, inter alia, the Pacific islands and their marriage, it was time to do this on our own. Krispin has been a brilliant help to date – I’m still not sure we would have made it across the Pacific in one piece without him on board – but we need to find our own equilibrium without crew members. He was able to find another ride to the Tuamotos and Stof and I have been sailing naked since.
We headed to the afore-mentioned Bay in horrid sea sailing against the wind and waves because we’d caught wind that a flotilla* of traditionally-inspired longboats were going to pull into the Bay of Taipivai (or, Controller’s Bay) on their way from New Zealand to Hawaii. We also heard that there would be a fabulous party. And we like parties.
On Saturday afternoon Stof spied a rather unusual sail approaching the bay. We almost backed out due to inclement (bucketing with rain) weather, but we quickly steeled ourselves against the warm rain and shot out in the dinghy to welcome the boats.
The full story emerged later: there are seven double canoes (wakas), the design of which was inspired by traditional Polynesian sailboats. The idea is to use the best of modern technology with ancient experience to create a fast. efficient and fossil-free boat. The wakas each represent a different Polynesian nation and they are navigated by traditional navigation. After Hawaii they will travel to San Francisco and down the American coast to return to the Pacific nations at some stage next year.
The whole idea is the realisation of a dream of an older Swedish (although he sounded rather German) gentleman who spent a whole day swimming with a white whale, alla Moby Dick. He was so struck by the grace of the giant that had been a symbol of man’s fear of the unknown, that he vowed to give back to the ocean in some way. I mention the inspiration because Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick) also wrote of a valley in the Marquesas where he spent some time after abandoning a whaling boat. The book is called Typee – Melville’s spelling of Taipivai and the rich old german swede wanted those boats to pull into that same bay.
It was an extraordinary experience to see these beautiful boats sail into the long arms of the tropical bay. The weather had been rather foul and my now-increased sailing knowledge made me all the more respectful of their sail. No autopilot for the twin canoes… they were steered by a giant paddle that required a person’s full body movement to steer the boat.
On the Sunday, we were treated to an even more fabulous experience: a full on Marquesan welcoming party. We’ve noted that the Marquesans like to be hospitable, and the feast that was laid out on the miles of (newly constructed) tables under palm frond decoration was pretty humbling.
The voyagers reciprocated by performing traditional hakas from each of their nations. It was awesome.
As an entirely unrelated bonus to being in the same bay as the double canoes, we were able to use the water refilling station set up for them. Obtaining clean water to refill our tanks before a month in the Tuamotos has been a concern for us. We have enormous jerry cans, so we didn’t want to have to lug them too far away from the comfort of our dinghy. Neither did the wakas and they had an extension hose and tap set up for their benefit on the beach.
On our way back to the Laura Takalani – water tanks full, we noticed a boat in the bay flying a South African flag. It was our first Saffa boat we’d seen so we naturally went a bit closer. We decided to shock them with a cheerful “MOLWENI”… except they did the shocking first:
As we arrived at the catamaran, a long-haired oke stepped down to catch our boat and casually welcomed us aboard BY NAME. Blow me down with a breeze, the long-haired oke is Stof’s actual first cousin’s first cousin! He had even stayed with Stof’s family for a few months when they were younger. UNbelievable. Naturally, we had a party for our fortuitous and amazing meeting in the Marquesas and jettisoned plans to do anything other than hang out for the next day.
*Not sure one can call it a flotilla if they’re traditional sailboats of about 60ft length.