Friday, July 06, 2007

June 22, 2007 - Bay of Virgins, Fatu Hiva, Marquesas, French Polynesia

"Welcome to Paradise," called Jack from Barbara Ann as he pulled along side in his dinghy, just as we were finishing our breakfast. He was not exaggerating. Fatu Hiva is the southernmost of the Marquesas. Approximately 700 people live on the island. It isn't an official port of entry, but the local gendarme looks the other way. The island doesn't get many tourists, so cruising boats are most welcome. We bring rum, wine, tobacco and bullets to trade for crafts, such as tikis or tapa cloth, which is produced by pounding the bark of mulberry, breadfruit and banyan trees. Tapa used to be made throughout Polynesia, but Fatu Hiva is the only place in French Polynesia where it is still being made.

Bay of Virgins is stunningly, spectacularly beautiful. Black lava rock at the shore gives way to palm trees, above which rocky spires thrust towards the clouds that eternally shroud this verdant isle. It is the most incredibly rugged place we've ever seen. Legend has it that the original French name for the bay was Bay des Verges, which translates as Bay of the Phalli, a reference to the spires surround the bay. But the missionaries were offended by calling it the bay of dicks, so an "i" was slipped in, making it Bay des Vierges, or virgins. This isn't the only castration performed by the missionaries in the name of spreading Christianity. They were also offended by the phalluses on the stone tikis throughout the islands, and so broke them all off. The ancient Marquesan name for the bay is Hanavave, which means "strong surf bay." We hope it doesn't live up to this name while we are here.

We spent the day cleaning the growth off of the bottom and the waterline. When the boat is underway for so long, the wetted surface changes, and bottom growth works its way up the side of the hull. We spent most of the passage heeled over to starboard, so we had a lot of growth on the white part of the hull on that side.

We even had a colony of clams living under our swim platform.

Tonight we went over to Barbara Ann for an our-freezer-is-dying-invite-everyone-in-the-anchorage-over-to-eat-our-meat potluck. Sten was asked repeatedly for his cornbread recipe. Afterwards we went ashore to watch the villagers practice their traditional dances for an upcoming festival. Although the older Marquesans are rather androgynous, there was a teenage girl in the front line who could have stepped out of a Gauguin painting.

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