Thursday, August 16, 2007

August 14, 2007 - Point Venus, Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia

Our attempt to have an early morning departure from Rangi, in order to have a single overnight and good light upon our arrival in Tahiti, was foiled by current and engine trouble. We upped anchor, motored to the pass, raised the main sail, and started into the pass with the assistance of a 5 knot outgoing current. Half way into the pass, we realized that the standing waves in the pass, created by the current rushing against waves generated by several days of high winds, were bigger and more dangerous than we had realized from inside the lagoon. Just as Sten spun us around to head back into the lagoon, the engine hiccuped. I eased the main to give us some downwind power and we surfed down 8 foot standing waves back to the safety of the lagoon. Other than the storm going to Bermuda, this was the scariest experience we have had on Mata'irea.

Anchored once again in front of the Kia Ora, Sten changed the fuel filters on the main engine and discovered that the fuel we had taken on in Galapagos was cloudy; we had just switched to that tank a few days prior. With fresh fuel filters, and a slack tide, we set out again for Tahiti. We did our best to eke out enough boat speed to make it into the pass at Papeete and several miles down a well marked but reef strewn channel to the anchorage before sundown the next day, but we ran out of time. We noticed an alternate anchorage in our chart book, and headed to Point Venus. It was a few miles closer, and we only had to avoid a reef and some shallows to get into a safe anchorage. We were both so happy to be at anchor. These short passages really take it out of us. The noise and the motion is exhausting, and there just isn't enough time to adjust to not sleeping. We celebrated our safe arrival in this peaceful anchorage with grilled steak and a nice bottle of 1997 Cahors, that we brought home from France the summer I took the bar exam.

Point Venus is quite the historical spot. All the early explorers who helped create the myth of Tahiti as paradise anchored here: Cook, Wallis, Bougainville, and Bligh (of Mutiny on the Bounty fame). It was here that a young Polynesian woman climbed onto the foredeck of Bougainville's boat, dropped her sarong before 400 sex-starved French sailors who hadn't seen a woman in six months, and (when Bougainville's journals were published in Europe and the sailors who survived the trip home spread their stories in taverns) initiated the link between these islands and sex. Cook's journals from his Royal Geographical Society expedition in 1769 to measure the passage of Venus (from which this spit of land gained its name), with their descriptions of the Polynesians' unabashed nudity and public sex acts, reinforced the link. Soon Tahiti was synonymous with all things sensual and beautiful in the eyes of Europeans. Unfortunately, in the ensuing years Protestant missionaries and (after France kicked out the English) the Catholic Church managed spread their gospel of guilt and chastity and now the only nudity that one is likely to see in French Polynesia is among European tourists.

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