Thursday, August 2, 2012

Paradise attained

Cruising is a funny business. There are two distinct phases to life aboard: time at sea, and time near land, and the two have precious little in common. Some people are equally comfortable in each, but I think it will come as no surprise that I am firmly on Team Phase II. For some the endless weeks of rolling on the high seas, but I like to go for a walk now and again.

When we first arrived at Fatu Hiva, tired and bedraggled and with more things to fix than I care to list, I´d planned to write about the end of our passage. After an excellent two weeks (and change) at sea, we approached the island asymptotically. We lost our wind about 250 NM from here - and I do mean, lost. Papillon needs about 10 knots of apparent wind to even get going. We had five. So, for three long days, we noodled along at 2 knots, destroyed some more bits of the boat (fun fact: light winds are far more destructive on equipment than heavy winds), and tried not to fight too much. It was frustrating. Eventually, after tearing the mainsail, ripping the track off the boom and bending the outhaul, we had to motor the final 30 NM. To add to the fun, our dinghy motor pooped out when we got here, so we spent 45 minutes just trying to get the final 200 m to land. Ridiculous.

And that can all translate to a hilarious story. But I find, now that we are here, those memories are taking on a flat and distant quality. The secret to cruising - or, at least, cruising successfully - is to have a limited and selective short-term memory. As soon as an annoyance is in the past, it is dead and gone. No grudges held. In the Customs and Immigration area of the brain, bad memories are granted a visitor´s visa. Only good memories may apply for permanent residence status.

This is my long-winded way of getting to what I really want to talk about, which is Fatu Hiva. We arrived, and all of the tiny stresses of the past few weeks melted away.

This island is a series of raw, craggy old volcanoes covered in palm trees, scrub and goats. Mist clings to the peaks, and periodically rain and wind rush down the valley and swirl our boat around. It looks very much like a chunk of Scotland dropped into the tropics. Yesterday we hiked inland and spent the afternoon at the base of a waterfall. We were alone in the forest, laughing and swimming. We discovered that crayfish are partial to orange seeds - who knew? One crayfish, a determined soul about five inches long, was bent on stuffing three seeds in his mouth at once. One kept dropping, leading to a comical routine of picking up the old seed, stuffing it in his mouth, and dropping a new one. Stylish in particular was very entertained.

When we first arrived, we made friends with the Swedish/Ecuadorian family on the boat next door, and they in turn introduced us to their friends in the village. Instead of working on the boat and getting back into sailing shape, we unexpectedly spent our Sunday sitting around the table with our new friends. Sitting on their breezy porch, surrounded by fruit trees and banana plants, we ate, and we ate, and we danced, and we ate, and the girls splashed through the river, and we ate some more. Shark ceviche and garlic bread on real baguette (!) and pamplemousse and oranges and coconut brittle and crepes and ice cream and patacones and my belly is so distended I may start getting questions about when the baby is due. We gave our French a workout, and poor Erik, possessed of the greatest number of relevant languages of the group, was kept busy as a French/Spanish/English translator as the need arose.

After three weeks at sea, we were down to our last sour grapefruit. Now, thanks to a little trading and a lot of generosity, we have so many limes, bananas, plantains, mandarins, oranges and pamplemousse that I wonder how we will finish it all. I´ve never been a fan of grapefruit, but the pamplemosse here has changed my mind. For one thing, it is sweet. For another, it actually tastes good. Our meat reserves are getting low, but we now have some wahoo steaks in the freezer, so I think we can happily live without ground beef for a while.

This is a place you´ll likely never see - Fatu Hiva doesn´t have an airport; it can only be reached either by sailing from thousands of miles away, like we did, or by flying to Tahiti, then to Hiva Oa, then finding someone with a boat to take you the last few hours to the island. Under the circumstances, I undertake to enjoy it on your behalf. And when we eventually move on to Nuku Hiva or Hiva Oa, I´ll post some pictures.

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Kate said...

In the Customs and Immigration area of the brain, bad memories are granted a visitor´s visa. Only good memories may apply for permanent residence status.
Great Quote.

Sounds amazing. What an adventure.


Karen said...

Amy! How wonderful! I have been waiting anxiously for this (not because I was worried, but mainly because I wanted something good to read - and maybe I did start to get a little worried after a while). I expect Erik is getting his Thor Heyerdahl on, Back to Nature and all that. Anyway, enjoy the land! It must be completely spectacular.

Anonymous said...

OK so I am insanely jealous.

Wishing I was with you in Paradise. Enjoy all it has to offer.
Love Mom/Grannie

Anonymous said...

Wow! what an accomplishment, so glad to hear you have made landfall and are enjoying new company.Thanks again for sharing your adventures with those of us who are land-locked!
hugs to all!
Karen (Mrs. M)