May 7-June 6, 2000
The harbor at Atuona is only the size of a football field and packed with boats. There is a breakwater which extends two-thirds of the way across the entrance but boats still have to put out a stern anchor to keep from rolling inordinately.
I’m at the helm while Bobby is on the bow directing me where he wants to go. We’re both having the same thoughts, “How in the world are we going to fit in here?” and “Even if we manage to find room between boats, how can we put out a stern anchor before we swing in to another boat when the dinghy is deflated on deck and the outboard is in its bracket on the stern pulpit?”
Graham, a skinny old Brit on Flight of Time, whom we’ve barely met, yells to us as we go by, “Drop your anchor just off my port side and I’ll take your stern anchor out for you.” What a generous offer. Bobby guided me between Flight of Time and his neighbor while my teeth and stomach muscles grew tighter the closer we came. We were as close to either boat as we would have been had we been pulling into a slip in a marina. Graham rowed over, took our 35 pound stern anchor with its 50 pounds of chain, and rowed out behind us to pick all that weight up and throw it over the side.
We’re hooked. The pitching in this bay would have seemed rough had we not just spent over three weeks in sloppy seas, but it felt strangely calm to us. We found ourselves bumping into walls and furniture that didn’t move as we were accustomed to. Paola stubbed her toe, Bobby twisted his foot, and I bruised my elbows and shins all in the first hour here.
After lunch, the kids pumped up the inflatable dinghy, lowered the outboard with Bobby, and we all hopped in to go ashore. Getting onto the dock is anything but easy. The dock is a concrete platform no larger than a jewelry kiosk in the walkway of a suburban mall. It is rough and barnacle-studded on the three sides which project into the sea. The swell in the anchorage alternately pushes us onto, then under the coarse concrete dock. Robby jumps out as the dinghy approaches the ledge, we wait while we are swept back away from the dock, then Michael follows. This process is repeated for each of us. I’m afraid someone is going to fall down as they hop onto slippery concrete that we expect to cause landsickness. But, everyone makes it, including Bobby who has to set a stern anchor then jump even farther than the rest of us. Strangely, we feel no landsickness.
It is hot. And awfully humid. The town is a 45 minute walk away, but no one need walk far on this island. The Marquesian people are among the most hospitable we’ve met. We start off along the road and the first truck that passes by offers us a ride. Everyone here has a pickup or a van. We see no cars. Paola has been practicing her French on the passage and has the opportunity to use it as the driver asks us where we want to go. We’re simply getting to know the place so say the only French word we know, “Gendarmerie.” We climbed into the bed of the truck and were off. We hope to continue the log...
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