Monday, August 4, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 38. Taiohae Bay. Marquesas Islands.

Hau tree and fallen blossoms,Taiohae Bay.

In the shadow of the high volcanic ridge, it is still very early dawn as we motor up Taiohae Bay toward the anchorage off the little town. Those are street lights we say incredulously. Then as I furl our forstaysail, an outrigger canoe zips out of the shadows and passes just in front of the bowsprit. This will be an island of contrasts.
A little kayak is now paddling out to us from the anchorage and we recognize Jim of Wylie E. Coyote with some tropical fruit (bananas and pamplemous) clustered before him on the narrow deck. He has kept watch for us to enter the bay and has come out to greet us, Polynesian style. When we are quite sure there are no maidens in the offing to welcome us as they did for ships of old, we welcome him aboard as we round up and anchor amid the large international fleet of yachts.

Heather thinks we will all want to have a nice long nap at the end of our voyage, but Anne and I can not wait to get ashore and soon Edith has been flipped upright from her home on the fore cabin and lowered overboard by the main and fore halyards. We all row ashore toward the concrete dock over the broad swells that reach even into this deep bay. Getting ashore is tricky, as the waves lift us up and down beside the dock. One at a time we make a leap for it on a crest.

We visit with Jim and Lindy of Moonlighter who are washing clothes at the dock stand pipe and following their instructions, we stagger and weave our way up the hill to the Gendarme to report in and get our cruising permit for French Polynesia. By the time we arrive our legs have adjusted to solid ground somewhat, and we are pleased to have Anne with her Canadian accented French to handle the formalities. Whether it is Anne, or her intriguing accent but he is most friendly and obliging! This is such a beautiful and together place with such friendly people.

In the evening we visit Wylie Jim and send a “We`ve arrived!” message to Gwyn back in Victoria by way of his HF e-mail. Now we and everyone back home can relax and stop worrying. We all sleep `til morning. What luxury!

We are up before 8am ( late, by local standards, everyone is up and out before dawn to get their marketing done before the heat of the day), walk the shore road and find that the local small grocery stores have no fruit for sale because everyone grows their own! The traffic consists of new Land Rovers, trucks, scooters and people on horseback galloping by. Naturally we buy some baguettes and cheese, beginning a habit we will maintain right across the French parts of the South Pacific.

In the afternoon, Anne and I scrub the slime off our boat`s sides above the waterline gathered in weeks of heeling over. We can see that the parts “protected” by antifouling have a fine crop of goose barnacles that have caused a lot of drag in the latter part of the voyage, but they will wait for another day.

Heather uses out little apartment style washing machine to do load after load of dirty clothing. Soon our rigging sports a fine collection of multi-coloured apparel flags. Wylie Jim asks if she will wash his collection as well if he hauls water from the dock so he and I spend some hot hours hauling water in Edith.

We have arrived at Easter time, but by the time we get ashore the next day the religious procession is over so we walk along the road that winds up a valley among the old stone house platforms to see where the locals live. The setting is fantastic: the bay is formed from an extinct volcano and the surrounding land forms an amphitheater that rises brightly green and steep into the rain clouds skewered on the peaks. The homes, half hidden in flowering and fruiting tropical trees, are mostly simple bungalows mixed in with a few big stone and thatch houses that have climatically sensible open weave wall panels. We pass goats, chickens and pigs but are stopped eventually by a big black boar eying us from the side of a splash-through and wagging his tail. We think carefully - happy dogs wave their tails, angry cats do the same..... so male pigs?? We decide it would be a pity to have survived our voyage, only to be taken out by a Marquesian pig so we wander back down hill, past the stone Tiki carver`s place and the intriguing sign that says OOTAT but resolves to TATOO when viewed from the other side.

We find Edith surging up and down at the dock even more wildly than usual because the swells have increased during the morning, so we leap wildly at the top of the cycle and row home to Shiriri who is also swooping up and down as the surf crashes on the coral beach behind her. We are a happy bunch of sailors, soaking up the sights and smell of our first south seas landfall.

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