24 January 2010

159. Wind and stars (3)

In February 1996 I arrived in New Zealand with the idea of staying there a couple of weeks visiting old friends living in the South Island. I stayed a year, now and then looking for a crew job in a marina to sail to Polynesia. I kept a journal of my days and adventures that year in New Zealand in the form of a tale now printed as the story of 'Li-Yan'. They are great memories. But my plan of sailing on Captain Cook's trail seemed to have stalled. Eventually I flew off Auckland NZ to Papeytey, worked in Polynesia for a couple of months and finally got a crew job on a yacht in June 1997.

I was on an atoll in the Tuamotus when I saw on the local TV that a fleet of 50 yachts had sailed into Papeytey harbour. I dropped everything and everybody and took the local cargo boat back to Tahiti. There I finally joined the crew of a British yacht sailing in that 'Rally around the world' organised from London. The name of the yacht was 'Ocean Dream', it fitted my purpose exactly. On board was an English couple with their baby boy, plus one American crew member. They were looking for an experienced crew able to do her share of the watch, look after the baby at times, and cook. I did just that.

No notes, no photos. I never met up again with the owners of the yacht. They had asked me to pay for my food and as I didn't have any money, I owed them the money for many years after. Eventually I paid my debt to them. We exchanged a couple of letters in 2001, I think, but no more. Maybe the time has come when I should find them out and pay a visit. They did take a lot of photos and videos. I'd love to see them.

This yacht rally was organised into 'legs' and sailboats were sorted into 3 categories, some racing, some competing for points, and others just taking the start and being counted at the finish with a large time allowance. Having a baby on board, we were of the third category. To add some spice to the sailing, however, we decided to 'compete' with another boat of the same category, betting on who would get first into Rarotonga, and who would fish the biggest tuna... The winner was to organise a barbecue for the loser!

We left Papeytey out of the pass into blue waters heading for Raiatea. I had done that trip a couple of months before on board a small sailboat with a French yacht owner and a German temporary boyfriend. My memory of it was vivid. I knew how to get into that pass and sail to the moorings at the bottom of the bay. But somehow, my English captain and his American crew decided not to pay attention to what I had to say. We sailed up and down the reef for a while. They could not see the pass. Their chart did not seem to be adequate. I did say that the two islands, Raiatea and Taha, shared the same reef belt. There is only one pass for both of them. Eventually they found it and we moored in due course not far from where I had moored previously. My heart was heavy as I remembered the hopes I had had then of finding a job and staying there with my friend.

The next day we were to sail to Bora-Bora. They asked me if I knew how to get there. The lagoon being tortuous and shallow, I suggested to follow the ferry which sails those waters everyday of the year. They said that you never ever follow another boat when you don't know your own way. Alright then. We eventually got to Bora-Bora and moored at the yacht club pontoon. From there on we sailed with our sister ship, 2 men and a woman from Portugal on a nice looking yacht.

We soon lost sight of the other boat but we were in regular contact with them by radio. They boasted having fished a huge tuna. We boasted having a bigger one still! After about a week of sailing south west to Rarotonga, we arrived one morning in the little harbour and saw their yacht already moored tight there. They had sailed in the night... following a fishing boat for guidance into the harbour. Ah well!






Post Scriptum : The video above is not mine. I thank 'leser2006' on YouTube to share it with the public.

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