28 September 2010

189. Tramp of the South Seas (3)

My mascot doll sailing  with me

So we motored into Vavau and came to dock at Neiafu.  Only a few yachts there. That was in 1997 of course, but I gather it might not be much different nowadays. The Pacific Ocean is vast and islands are wide apart. You really have to be serious about 'cruising' to get there. Perhaps with the advent of automatic sailing and automatic navigation a lot more sailboats will venture that far. In 1997, however, there were not many people cruising around there. It was the end of June or the beginning of July i.e. the cool season in the southern tropical area of the world and the weather was just fine.

After mooring everyone went out into 'town' and I staid on board. As I was in charge of the galley and the cooking I figured I had to clean up a bit after the last passage. I was in no hurry to visit the place being myself a resident of a Pacific Island at the time in New Caledonia.

Not more than 20 minutes after the rest of the crew had left I get a call on the short wave radio. A major accident. Little Tom had fallen into the water and hurt his head badly on a reef. He was rushed to the local hospital if there was one. I prayed. I prayed the Lord, God, our heavenly Father, not to turn this heaven into hell for those parents who had taken me as crew on their board.

It turned out that this very day there was an Australian surgeon on duty at the local hospital. This guy consulted in Vavau regularly something like twice a year and it happened to be this very day. Tom was promptly operated. He had an eyelid sewn back on. Call it a coincidence!

What else do I remember of Vavau? Pigs roaming around freely in the streets. A guy on a yacht having sailed from Hawaii looking for crew. I didn't take it as I was on my way back home to New Caledonia. The original plan had been to sail to Hawaii following Captain Cook's trail. That was not to be, I had to admit it. I also remember going for a barbecue somewhere on the island sitting on wooden benches at the back of a truck. We joked about going to a barbecue not to eat but to be eaten... a dubious joke, of course. Pacific islanders of old used to be man eaters. It is not diplomatic to recall this detail of history at the best of time.

A digression: in New Caledonia when I first arrived there in 1989 I met a Melanesian guy who invited me for a beer and chatted me up. I bragged that my grandfather was a farmer. He replied "well MY grandfather was a man eater"... and we laughed. Some people do have a sense of humour.  

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!

2 September 2010

183. Crew available

Last month I joined an Australian based website called Find a Crew. It is a very practical and efficient website aiming at connecting captains and skippers looking for crew and crew members looking for a boat and captain. Here's my profile:

Crew Member 57066, 66, female
Languages I speak
fluent English, French, acceptable German
My current location is in France
My home location is in France
Destinations I'm interested to crew: any country
Nationality: French
Boat types I'm interested to crew on:
Sailing Vessel
Boat length overal (LOA): 13 meters (43ft)
People aboard:
preferably a boat with at least 3 or more people aboard
Smoking: I'm a non-smoker
Sea time:
I've spent about 2 years at sea so far
Duration:
I'm available to crew preferably between 6 months to 2 years

Dear Shipmates,
Cruising is a way of life I love. I haven't been able to afford my own sailboat so that I have always sailed as a member of the crew on other people's boats.

I sailed for the first time on the shores of Queensland, Australia, in 1967. Later, in 1974-5 I took a sailing course in Brittany, France. Then a lot later, in 1995 I sailed from Noumea, New Caledonia, to Bundaberg, Australia. In 1997 I sailed from Tahiti to New Caledonia and then to New Zealand. Again in 1999 from Noumea to Opua, NZ.

A little about myself, my interests and my plans:
I'm a bilingual french/english citizen of Europe. I have a BA in ethnology from a French University and I studied as a post-graduate student in the United States. I lived in Australia some 12 years in all, 10 years in New Caledonia and 2 years in New Zealand, among other places.

My interests are varied and numerous: ethnology, history, traveling, computing, blogging, cooking, pottery, gardening, kids, politics. I love meeting people and exploring new places.

My motivation and reasons to crew on a boat:
My last sailing trip was in 1999 in the South Pacific. I live away from the sea and miss it. It's time for me to weigh anchor and set sails again! I do have:

- a sense of adventure
- interest in the off the beaten track places, and people
- conversation and a sense of humour
- enjoyment of a wide range of food and ability to prepare it
- absolute commitment to the boat and the other members of the team.


What position would you like to fill?
Cook, Watch-keeper, Platonic Friend Relationship, Nanny, Child care.

Type of positions you are interested to crew?
Recreational, Unpaid position.

254. END OF THIS BLOG

I started this blog in 2005 under a different name. When I deleted it at one stage its title was stolen, borrowed, hijacked by someone ...