12 September 2010

186.TRAMP OF THE SOUTH SEAS (2)



I must resume writing the story of my sailing trip across the Pacific in 1997. The previous episode is told in my post 164 when we had arrived in Rarotonga. The leg of the 'rally around the world' we were doing was from Tahiti to Fiji. The stop over in Rarotonga lasted a few days, enough for me to prepare the food for the next passage and to stroll for a couple of hours in the town of Avarua. Should I write my 'impressions' here? What I will say might not be 'politically correct' now that we are in 2010 and so aware of what is acceptable for printing.

For 6 months prior to my sailing adventure, I had been living and working in French Polynesia. I had seen how local Polynesians behaved and carried on. Like the French they were pretty undisciplined and prone to have fun, wether eating or flirting. Now when I strolled in the streets of Avarua in Rarotonga the atmosphere was very different. The lawns were nicely trimmed, people were playing rugby or cricket, school kids wore a uniform. It looked somewhat British. I pondered how a culture can rub off on people. The Polynesians of Tahiti and of Rarotonga are the same people, they speak the same language, they are of the same ethnic group. And yet some behave rather French style and others British style. In this day and age when we can't even mention the interaction between people without being labelled a racist, I dare say it looked fine to me. I know that the polynesian ways have also rubbed off on the colonials anyway.

We sailed from Rarotonga west-north-west to Vavau in Tonga, sailing past Niue half way. It was renowned to be of difficult approach, the sun was setting and we had a baby on board. We didn't detour to that tiny island in the middle of nowhere on the map of the Pacific. Captain Cook did, back in the 1700's.

Niue Google Map

The sailing was great. I remember one private incident between me and the young 2 year old captain's son. I found him once sitting seriously at his dad's charts table scribbling on charts with a coloured pencil. My exclamation surprised him, we crossed eyes and I reported him. After that, we were never friends again!

I forgot how long it took to reach this north Tonga island, perhaps a week or 10 days. When we saw Vavau in the distance, some joy invaded the company on board. I expected we were going to sail in under sails. To my dismay the captain decided to motor in. What a shame, what a shame! To this day I find it a waste of time to 'sail' with an engine. To me the pleasure of sailing is in being smart enough with sails. How can I say that? Like manoeuvering with a car. Or... I can't think of an example. The art of using the boat under sails only, the feeling of being able to manoeuver under sails only, I can't explain it. When I was taught sailing in Brittany in the 1970's we were shown how to dock under sail. It is quite an art, dropping the sails all of a sudden at a very precise time when you judge the momentum enough to take you where you want, and then use the jib and the rudder. I'd be totally incapable to perform such a feat nowadays. But I like the idea!

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