VOYAGE OF COMMITMENT
Ray and Shirley Triplett shared a dream to escape the rut of their daily lives and to sail around the world to exotic places. But unlike the dreams of many successful middle-aged American couples, theirs was to come true, largely because of their faith and dedication to the commitment they had made to the fulfillment of their great adventure.
Over a period of eight years, they alone sailed their twenty-ton ketch Morning Star one and a half times around the world, undeterred by violent storms, groundings on coral reefs, wars, confrontation with pirates, shipwrecks, and skipper's falling overboard, critical illness at sea, and the human problems of adjusting to the exclusive companionship of another for so long a time. Woven throughout the tapestry of this tale is a philosophy and an all-pervading faith in a higher power which enabled these two adventurers to overcome the sometimes seemingly insurmountable physical and spiritual obstacles.
This Web site follows their journey from the Marquesas Islands to New Zealand as they journeyed across the vast Pacific in 1976.
Te Fenua Enata (the "land of men") - this was the name the inhabitants of these radiant islands called their home before the sixteenth-century. European navigator Mendana "discovered" them. Robert Louis Stevenson called the Marquesas Islands "the forgotten islands of the South Pacific." Tall, statuesque, strong, tattooed from head to foot, the Marquesan native was said to be the most attractive human being on the face of the earth. The group of six principal islands - Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, tahuata, Hiva Oa and Fatu Hiva - along with six smaller islands, was populated in 1779 by approximately sixty thousand of these outstanding specimens of the human race.
But the introduction of diseases by the European and American scum of the South Seas - whalers, traders, beachcombers, deserters - during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries decimated the population down to a low of twenty-eight hundred souls. tuberculosis, leprosy, venereal diseases, flu, and the common cold, along with intertribal warfare and cannibalism, ravaged this proud breed of Polynesian aristocrats into near extinction.
As Britain, Spain, France, and America fought over the possession of these islands, incalculable harm was done to the Marquesans by the introduction of opium. the Marquesan chiefs, incapable of maintaining order among their people amid the chaos swirling about them, entreated the French to assume sovereignty, and this group of islands was ceded to France by a treaty between the chiefs and a French admiral in 1842. The Marquesas Islands didn't live up to the expectations of the European colonists. Cotton plantations were established, and Chinese workers, along with their opium, were imported. with the collapse of the cotton industry, most of the Chinese workers left, but the insidious opium remained.
At the present time, the verdant islands, with natural resources to support a large population, are inhabited by only a handful of white men. Chinese, and about six thousand Marquesans. We cruised among these exquisitely enchanting islands, anchoring in every protected bay on each one, coming to know and respect the Marquesan people, learning their language and the history of their proud past. On many of the islands, the Marquesans would take us on hikes inland to view the remnants of the ancient population. the paepae, the cleverly arranged unhewed stone foundations of their houses and meeting lodges, were scattered in the dense undergrowth of the jungle wherever we looked. We were shown their stone altars of human sacrifice called maraes. As our minds reeled back to what this all mist have been like just a few decades ago, we imagined, through the vivid descriptions of our Marquesan friends, the tauas ("priests") appeasing their primitive Tikis.
But as we listened to the picturesque descriptions of the past portrayed by our Marquesan friends, we became acutely aware that the tales that they were telling us were, in the main, not handed down to them from generation to generation. there simply did not exist the unbroken oral history that we were to encounter elsewhere in Polynesia. What they had learned was largely picked up from the archeological expeditions initiated by, among others, the Bishop Museum scientists out of Hawaii. The history of the transmigration of the Polynesian people - how, when, why, and from where they had populated these far-flung islands - is passionately interesting to the present-day scientist, anthropologist, archeologist, and botanist. Such preoccupation with the past, however, is of little interest to the Marquesan survivors of today. What they do know is that their race came close to extinction, and their culture simply did not survive the crushing effects of the invasion of the white missionaries, traders, whalers, and exploitative entrepreneurs.
But such is the way of the world. Everything is transient. The Inca, Aztec, American Indian, Babylonian, roman, Greek civilizations - all began, flourished at a peak, declined, and finally burned out like a plunging comet being consumed in the atmosphere. We heard occasional resentments expressed to us by some still-proud, educated Marquesans. "Our children are taught all about the glories of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, and European history, but they are taught nothing about the rich history of our own people." In the mid-nineteenth century, Herman Melville wrote the books Typee and Omoo and became America's literary discoverer of the Marquesas Islands and the South Seas.
During our prolonged cruise in the Marquesas, we became initiated into the intricacies of Polynesian gift giving. In almost every village of every inhabited bay on every island, we were invited into the homes of our inherently generous hosts. We shared the meals prepared for our benefit - apprehensively dipping our fingers into a common poi-poi bowl - eating baked banana bread, coconut dishes, fish, wild goat (meny-meny), mangoes, oranges, limes, wild birds' eggs, and all of the native foods which these lovely islands offered in profusion. We were given carvings, original stone adzes and war clubs, pandanus woven hats, cowrie shells (porcelain), and all manner of gifts springing from long hours of handiwork. the gifts were never proffered with a request for direct reciprocity or a quid prop quo. but the obligation for reciprocity was subtly created - not by guileful calculation but as a matter of ancient custom. the most treasured of gifts that they accepted in return from us were "photo minoot" - snapshots - colour polaroid pictures of them, their children, their dwellings, their canoes. We would try to take these pictures in a candid manner, but each time the camera was pointed at them, they would stiffen into frozen, smileless, Bonaparte-like poses. We also reciprocated with gifts of clothing, blankets, canned goods, shackles, and tools.
A second gift, often asked for outright, was cartouche - 22 caliber rifle ammunition. The French authorities allow them a severely rationed number of these shells for their .22 rifles. With these shells, they are ;permitted to kill the wild goats., pigs, and cattle that exist in profusion on most of the islands. but illegally imported ammunition was contraband. The French gendarmes inflicted harsh punishment - jail terms - to foreigners caught supplying ammunition to the natives. The gendarmes explained that if the Marquesans had an unlimited supply of ammunition, they would wantonly kill the wild animals of the islands beyond their needs. The Marquesans countered this argument with their own version - "Franay afraid we make revolution and kill them if we have enough ammunition." I was skeptical of both arguments. After seeing the way the gendarmes had summarily clapped into the bleak jailhouse on Nuku Hiva the crews of two yachts merely suspected of dealing in contraband - drugs, liquor, guns, and ammunition - there was no way I would have risked breaking their laws. The French, along with officialdom of many other countries, are highly suspicious of visiting yachts. Human nature being what it is, we all have a tendency of generalize and to tar with the brush of the lowest common denominator an entire group or nationality by the conduct of only a few.
During the "permissive society" period of the 1960s and 1970s, cruising to distant, romantic islands of the world inevitably attracted some of the same rebellious element that was aggressively defying the established order of their own countries of the free world. A new breed of outlaw adventure seekers descended upon the unsuspecting peoples of the South Pacific. On any nondescript craft that would float, they brought with them their marijuana, cocaine, and "liberated" lifestyle. But, quite different from the "do-your-own-thing and get-away=-with-it" attitude of the ultralenient law enforcement apparatus that they left behind, they encountered with and sure punishment meted out by the not-so-permissive police forces of the rest of the world. As they introduced young native people to the euphoria of pot smoking, trafficked in ammunition and liquor, freely helped themselves to limes, grapefruit, coconuts, and bananas growing "in the wild,", they antagonized not only the gendarmes of Polynesia but the basically kind and tolerant native people who resented their discourteous, arrogant, and intrusive ways. All citron ("fruit") growing in these islands belongs to someone. If asked, the native people would cheerfully give, but they were greatly offended if anyone just helped himself without asking to their produce. Unfortunately, the conduct of only a relative handful of "yachties" of this type put every yacht under a cloud of initial suspicion, out of which they would have to extricate themselves by demonstrating that "they would have to extricate themselves by demonstrating that "they weren't all like that."
While the Marquesans wanted independence, they had to admit that the French had been good to them. They had brought them peace from intertribal warfare, free medical and dental care, free literacy and education for their children, and many amenities of the twentieth century that they otherwise would not have. There is no commensurate return for the millions of francs that the French taxpayers pour into Polynesia. there are no precious mineral, oil, or timber resources for a colonial power to exploit. Polynesia's only strategic value to the French is that it provides a military base in the southern Tuamotus for the highly controversial testing of nuclear weapons. With their ancient culture and customs lying in shambles around their feet, the Marquesans have few options for the future. Having acquired a taste for whiskey, tobacco, rice, flour, candy, tools, cooking utensils, outboard motors, and transistor radios, the purchase of all of which requires cash, the nostalgia for going back to the simple life and the ways of their ancestors had virtually disappeared.
The cash can only be earned by the processing of copra (the meat of the coconut), which is very hard work. Unlike the process in the sun-baked Tuamotu atolls, copra in the moisture-laden atmosphere of the Marquesas can only be dried in roofed-over sheds with the meat lying on corrugated iron sheets over fires funded by coconut husks. As the volatile copra market of the world goes u and down, so too do the fortunes of the Marquesans. One of the most appreciated gifts we could make to the Marquesans was to take those fun-loving people day sailing - to extend to them the hospitality of our floating home. The big, powerful men were great sailors, and sailing around the islands on the Morning Star was a major treat for them. Oddly enough, the Polynesian women would almost invariably become instantly seasick. Most of the bays in the Marquesas group are "rolling anchorages." Quite often, visits to the yacht rolling of anchor would be blighted by the retching of the Marquesan women hanging over the rail.
We spent many tranquil days anchored in Hana Menu Bay on the island of Hiva Oa. A few steps down from the beach in a tropical forest glade was a bubbling freshwater pool where we would bathe and where Shirl would wash clothes. We were the only yacht there and became close friends of the sole occupants of the beautiful bay, Ozanne, his wife, Marie, and their beautiful children. Ozanne became as a son to us, and he spent countless hours on the Morning Star. I taught him how to use an electronic digital calculator. Although uneducated, Ozanne had a high I.Q. In no time, he was calculating the price of his copra crop and the proportionate revenues of his numerous relatives living in Atuona who sharecropped the land upon which Ozanne lived and worked. He became so intrigued with the calculator that he begged to buy it from me "to give to his father for Christmas." I had two calculators, which I used for navigational problems, so I told Ozanne, "There is no way that I will take your hard-earned cash for this electronic gadget. As soon as I sail, it could fall in this saltwater atmosphere. Then you would feel your ami, Ray, had cheated you. I won't sell it to you, Ozanne, but I will give it to you. Here, it is yours." He was startled and tongue-tied with gratitude.
That night, Ozanne and two young Marquesan friends bumped alongside in their outrigger canoe. He said, "Ray, tomorrow before daylight, we go pit and goat hunting. I have gun and shells. You come with us."
Although I had been deer, bear, and elk hunting since I was a small boy, the hiking-hunting expedition I was taken on the next day was the most gruelling of my life. Up and down steep shale-covered mountains, the powerful young Marquesans effortlessly pursued the wild goats and pigs. Heavy leather boots protected my feet against the sharp shale as we climbed up steep slopes and slid down into deep valleys. The Marquesans were barefooted. But they had been barefooted all of their childhood and adult lives. Their scarred feet had toughened soles at least one-half inch thick. The dogs cornered a fiercely snarling wild boar, and I shot him between the eyes. The other Marquesans, lacking guns, carried slingshots, with which they could propel a piece of shale with deadly accuracy. They killed a goat in this manner.
Burdened with these animals, we slipped and slid down the mountains we had so laboriously climbed. The Marquesans moved with long, sure-footed strides. Every once in a while, Ozanne would inconspicuously slow down thoughtfully to allow me to catch up with him, without causing me undue embarrassment in the presence of his rugged young companions. We skirted foot-wide trails hugging the mountainside, with sheer drops to the boiling sea below, rounded bends with breathtaking views of the sea and mountainous terrain My mind flashed back to a boyhood boo, Melville's Typee, and his tale of two young sailors climbing the mountains of the Marquesas as they deserted ship. As we came to a meadow like plateau, Ozanne said, "We stop here, Ray, I want to ask you something." He began, "My relatives and I own all this land. They own most, but I do all the work and sharecrop with them. Tres difficile pour Marie et moli. Beaucroup de travail."
Ozanne continued, "When enfants old enough to go to ecole, we move around island to Atuona. They go to school with Catholic sisters there. We need beaucoup money to buy house in Atuona. A few months ago, yate come to Hana Menu. full of young guys with beards and long hair. Plenty girls, too. Yate capitaine say to me, 'Ozanne, I give you seeds. You plant. We come back later when grass is grown. We buy from you for beaucoup money."' Ozanne went on. "Ray, they call seeds and plants 'grass,' but I know it is dope. I hear Americans call it pot. They tell me it grow real fast in my valley - plenty rain. I make fortune. Gendarmes never find out. Gendarmes in Atuona never come in mountains."
Abruptly, Ozanne stopped talking, looked me in the eye, and said, "Ray, you my friend. I trust you. What you think? Good idea, huh?" I said. "No, Ozanne, bad idea. Sooner or later, gendarmes find out. Small island. Somebody maybe don't like Ozanne, maybe jealous, maybe want Marie, maybe want money from gendarmes for reward, who knows? "Gendarmes catch you, certainement. You go many years in prison in Tahiti. You be old man when you get out. Children grow up without father. Best you forget about geowing grass." Ozanne thought for a few minutes, then replied, "I think you right, Ray. Bad idea. Let's go cut up goat and pig." One Marquesan had the bloody goat slung around his shoulders. The other two were sliding down the mountain with the boar slung on a pole carried between them. With Ozanne and me trailing behind, we emerged into his settlement on the beach.
After a few days more, we said kaoha to Ozanne and Marie and sailed to Fatu Hiva, the southernmost island of the group. Here in Hana Vave Bay, with its spirelike pinnacles framing the sea, we anchored in one of the most spectacularly beautiful bays in the South pacific. Thor Heyerdahl and his young bride had spent a year living in Fatu Hiva with the Marquesans and wrote a Book-of-the-Month Club selection called Fatu Hiva - Back to Nature, which dramatically described his initial acceptance and subsequent rejection by the Marquesans of Fatu Hiva. The people of Hana Vave befriended us and invited us into their huts for kai-kai ("food"). One old man said to me, "Americain, bon mecanicien. You fix my radio." Tracing the current with my voltohm meter, I found a loose connection. Much to my surprise, with a few squirts of WD 40, the transistor radio broke into the sounds of distant Tahiti. After that piece of sheer luck, every broken-down, rusted radio and outboard motor were dragged from the damp recesses of native huts, and the Americain bon mecanicin was asked to perform his black magic with his mysterious tools.
With the cash gleaned from their back-braking copra work, the Marquesans would buy these gadgets from visiting trading schooners. Then, in short orde4r the mechanical and electronic products of "civilization" would cease operating in the dank, saltwater atmosphere permeating their villages. I had noticed success in making these repairs, but whether I succeeded or failed, the gratitude of these kindly people for the effort extended was always there in abundance. We were showered with gifts of tapa cloth, langousters ("lobsters"), intricately women pandanus hats, and beautiful cowrie-shell headbands. One young couple, Madeleine and Mathias, couldn't do enough for us. One day Madeleine asked Shirley to teach her how to use a Singer sewing machine for which she had paid 3,500 francs so an itinerant American sailor. The machine had been sold to Madeleine by the "snake oil" salesman with the assurance that she could operate it by hand. but it could only function with 110 volts of electricity, and, of course, there was no electricity on Fatu Hiva, so Madeline had to continue to use the machine as a mere decoration in her pandanus-cooled house. It was a source of great embarrassment for us to have to tell Madeleine that she had been swindled.
When we ran across the occasional situation where these trusting, almost childlike native people had been taken advantage of, it made us wonder at not only how they could so stoically forgive and forget, but how they could continue to extend their simple hospitality to the vast majority of honorable "yachties" who would follow in the wake of the isolated few "takers" plying the South Sea Islands. We heard on the ham radio that Bob and Nancy Griffith, along with their twenty-one-year old son, Reid, were in Talohae Bay. In our estimation, the Griffiths were the greater sailors of all time. They had sailed over two hundred thousand miles and always with a full crew. They are the only ones in history to circumnavigate successfully the Antarctic in a sailing vessel. Even the famous Captain Cook tried it and failed to in the ice-bound deep southern latitudes.
Both Nancy, and Reid had, along with a crew of volunteers, followed to logs out of large redwood trunks in the Pacific Northwest and in California. They fashioned these logs into replicas of ancient Polynesian voyaging proas, and Bob, with his crew, set out to sail to the Marquesas, with Nancy - without a doubt the most formidable female sailor who ever lived - skippering their fifty-three-foot ferrocement cutter Ahwanee II as escort vessel. On their initial attempt, the first Spirit of Nuku Hiva had broken up and sunk on the rock-bound coast near San Francisco when her towline parted. With characteristic determination, Bob set forth to hollow out tediously another log, build another proa. After extreme hardship, bob and his crew sailed the second Spirit of Nuku Hiva, to Talohae, again escorted by Nancy in command of Ahwanee II.
We wanted to renew our friendship with the Griffiths and to hear of their most recent seagoing exploits, so we sailed back to Talohae from Ua Huka. As we anchored in Taiohae Bay, we were met by Reid, who had rowed out to greet us. At age twenty-one he had three circumnavigations under his belt. In his brief lifetime, he had been exposed to more raw adventure than most men will ever experience in five lifetimes. Reid stayed aboard the Morning Star for dinner, and on into the night. Shirl and I listened to this quiet young man relate the story of the passage of the Spirit of Nuku Hiva. bob and his crew had set out to live primarily on the fish they would catch on this passage. When they arrived in Taiohae, after weeks at sea, the crew, with the exception of one young man, were terrified and abandoned the venture. They were all encamped under tents of sails on the "no-no," fly-infested Nuku Hiva beach. As I listened to Reid describe the "crew problems" on the Spirit of Nuku Hiva, my former "crew problems" paled into insignificance.
We spent days with Bob, Nancy, and Reid. Among the numerous pictures that I took of them, the Ahwanee II, and the proa, I photographed Reid and his mother on the bowsprit of the Ahwanee II. this was the last picture ever taken of Reid Griffith. Tragically, he lost his life a few days later when he fell off a cliff while goat hunting on Nuku Hiva. But even this devastating tragedy didn't cause Bob and Nancy to give up and abandon their incredible venture. They were determined to sail the proa back to Hawaii. While attempting this last heroic feat, the Spirit of Nuku Hiva broke up - and sank in a storm. Nancy skillfully brought Ahwanee II about and fished Bob and his replacement crew out of the storm-tossed waters between the Marquesas and Hawaii.
Bob Griffith was one sailor whose advice I eagerly sought and respected. During our time together, I told Bob about an expedition that I had been planning to atolls in an area of the Tuamotus where yachts seldom, if ever, go. I told Bob how we had navigated through the Dangerous Archipelago in 1974 without a motor, and he told me how he, Nancy, and Reid shipwrecked their first Ahwanee in the region,. They subsisted for sixty-seven days on an uninhabited atoll before being rescued by the French. Although Bob and Nancy were very outspoken in their opposition to shorthanded crews and most emphatically against single-handed sailors, Bob encouraged Shirl and me to go for it - to weave our way through treacherous current-bound roofs and atolls in search of adventure that was not available if we followed the lemminglike path of other yachts plying between the Marquesas and Tahiti. It was now mid November. We had lingered in the Marquesas for ten weeks. The Marquesas Islands do not experience hurricanes, but the Tuamotus have been devastated by them at this time of the year. Prudence dictated that we begin our Tuamotu expedition at once.
To The Land Of Kon Tiki And Beyond
Almost imperceptibly, the skies behind the towering spires of Arise Hakaotu on the island of Ua Pou began to lighten. The protesting shrieks of roosting frigate birds fragmented the silence as the heavy plo9ugh anchor of the Morning Star reluctantly released its grip on the bottom. We were underway. Heading SSW to Raroia Atoll, Raroia - where the Inca-type balsa raft Kon Tiki had crashed on the ref after its epic drift voyage in 1947 from Peru. Shirl and I had been enthralled with the classic Kon Tiki adventure of the courageous anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl and his five Scandinavian companions. As sailors, intimately familiar with the actions of prevailing winds and currents, we had been convinced, contrary to current scientific opinion, that it was quite possible that the Pacific Islands of Polynesia had been populated, at least partly, by the yellow-brown-skinned Indians of South America, as the Kon Tiki expedition sought to improve. Moreover, the presence of the South American yam in these islands, along with the similarities between the Inca and the Polynesian cultures, the tikis and petrographs found in Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the Marquesas, made the Heyerdahl theory eminently sensible to us.
The night before we left Ua Pou, Marquesas friends had paddled over from Hakamai village and had given us their stalks of green bananas to deliver to the Paumotuans of the atolls where bananas do not grow. Stalks of bananas have a way of riipening all at the same time, so I was going to make an attempt to deliver them to what the French have named the Iles du Desappointement - Tepoto and Napuka. there is no entrance into the lagoon of Napuka. Landing can be accomplished only by standing off the island and unloading into local canoes. Tepoto is a coral island that was originally an atoll, but it has become entirely filled uip and lifted above sea level, possibly by some volcanic upheaval. The Pacific Island's Pilot Book description reads: "flat-topped and covered with coconut palms which give it an elevation of about 65 feet. There is no anchorage. Trading vessels which call once or twice a year, very occasionally, find a precarious berth on the western side of the island by anchoring off the reef and securing by the stern to the shore. total population about 50." Lying almost in my path to Raroia, I decided to use Tepoto as a navigational challenge and, if possible, heave to and give the bananas to the natives, unloading into their canoes.
A mid-afternoon on the third day out from her position aloft on the rigging, Shirl spotted the smudged outline of the coconut trees of Tepoto dead off our bow - only six miles ahead of us! Having coped with a strong westerly current, frequent overcast skies, and shifting wind and sea conditions, I was particularly elated with this dead-on landfall. No matter how often repeated, we experienced again the electrifying thrill of making an exact landfall on a speck in the ocean. Celestial navigation continues to inspire in me feelings of awe, humility, and reverence for the genius of the ancient (B.C.) astronomers who studied analyzed, and computed the movements of the heavenly bodies. As our white sails became visible, the natives poured out to sea in dozens of dugout-outrigger canoes. A group of them strung out along an extending submerged reef to warn us of its presence. As we hove to under sail, three dugouts came alongside, banging into our topside in the open sea as the natives clambered aboard. The ensuing minutes were chaotic. The language barrier was almost total. No one spoke English or French. But by gestures and smiles and many taoranas, we knew that we were indeed welcome.
The "precarious perch" described in the Pilot Book looked to be too dangerous an anchorage - the reef shelves and plunges straight down into the sea. So I didn't want to remain. I wanted only to deliver to them the stalks of ripening bananas. The husky natives on our deck were all jabbering at once, indicating to us that we should drop our anchor on the reef, and count on the prevailing winds to hold us off. I decided to take this risk for a few hours, then leave before sundown. A sudden shift of the wind here in late November would put us on the jagged coral, and that would be the end of the Morning Star.
With the natives on the bowsprit, we maneuvered just short of the reef and, at their signal, let go the anchor. I was astonished to watch the seventy-five-pound plough anchor and chain plunge into the crystal-clear water, down and down, before I braked the windlass to a halt. As the natives argued among themselves, I brought in the anchor and put our bow-sprit right up to the coral ledge, where this time the anchor hooked into the reef. while backing off, I suspended a stern anchor straight down 300 feet, so that if the wind fell calm or shifted, it would, I hoped, catch on something as we swing parallel to the reef. When we came surfing in over the reef in our new rubber Zodiac, the entire village was on the beach to greet us - all fifty of the total population. Smiles, taoranas, shell heis, hugs, and kisses - it was as though long-lost relatives had dropped in from Mars. As the chief helped us lift the dinghy off the reef, he slipped and fell, cutting his legs on the razor-sharp coral, causing blood to stream down his leg. Everyone laughed - the chief most of all. this is the way of these good-natured primitive people. they laugh at the petty misfortunes of life.
Everything pales into insignificance as they are confronted with the harshness of their primordial way of life. Fish, turtle and coconuts form the backbone of their diet. although there are two wells of brackish water, they drink coconut water from the young, green drinking nuts. They escorted us to an area under the coconut palms., brushed clean and paved with gleaming white-coral pebbles. here they insisted that we sit on a wooden bench, while they all squatted in a semicircle around us. We couldn't communicate effectively until the schoolteacher shyly stepped forward to admit that he spoke French un peu. We responded then to their barrage of questions. Where did we come from" How could we sail across the ocean to see them without a crew? What nationality were we? Franay ("French")? As we answered their questions, Manaia Tamatoatauto, our interpreter, told us that we were the first yacht in the history of the island ever to call there.
At this, I apprehensively glanced out at the Morning Star pitching and rolling in the swell off the reef. We gave them clothing and canned food, which the chief tried to disburse equitably among them. they had closed the school during our visit, and we stayed in Tepoto two days and two nights, standing anchor watches during the night. We were ready to get out fast at the slightest shift in the wind. Our visit had been something of an event in their lives, and, as always, we were saddened to leave these kind people whose lives brushed ours in our travels, but we were bound for Raroia, lying 130 miles south-southwest of Tepoto. We carefully timed our landfall off Raroia's sister island, Takume, allowing for an approximately two-know west-setting current. While we were in Tahiti, our friend Bengt Danielsson, an anthropologist who had been with Heyerdahl on the Kon Tiki expedition, dramatically told us how they had almost lost their lives in the crashing breakers on the submerged windward reef of Raroia.
A three-star position fix - Sirius, Canopus, Jupiter - shot at dusk caused us to change course and reduce sail to slow down to three knots. The current was propelling us at a faster-than-anticipated rate. At the first light of predawn, there was Takume only three and a half miles ahead of us. Notwithstanding the current allowance cranked into our navigation, we were too close for comfort. the windward side of these particular atolls is awash. The noise of the sea around the boat drowns out the sound of the downwind breakers. Despite the full moon, around which we had planned our Raroita expedition, it is almost always impossible at night to see the breakers until you are in them - not then it is too late. Had I not shot the star fix the night before, we might have gone on the merciless reef at Takume during the night. Our radar was of some aid, but it can't see a submerged reef. It could booby-trap us into a reef by targeting the shove-the=surface atoll on the opposite side of the lagoon. So we used it with suspicion. We eyeballed our way along the Takume coast, across the channel to Raroia, searching for the pass into the lagoon. A snapshot of the brilliant then Morning Star-planet Venus told us where the pass was far more accurately than counting the scattered motus along Raroia.
We hove to off Passe Ngarue, waiting for an eight-knot ebbing current to abate. Then, with Shirl directing me while wearing Polaroid sunglasses that enabled her to see the coral heads beneath the surface, we entered the radiant lagoon of Raroisa Atoll. Wending our way among the coral heads, we anchored off Ngnarumaova village. Men, women with babies, chioldren and barking dogs clustered on the dilapidated jetty as we tossed them the painter of the dinghy. In Nuku Hiva, the part-white, part-MJarquesan trader Maurice McKitytrick had asked me to bear a letter of greeting to his friend, the chief of Raroia. this message assured us profusely elaborate hospitality, extended by the forty-two Paumotuans living on remote Raroia. It was Sunday, and we were the guests of honour at a memorable dinner in the chief's home. We carefully listened while one Paumotuan tried to outdo the other in the eloquence of his oratory. the Polynesians love to give long speeches, and we were deeply touched by their references to how God had brought us to their lonely atoll.
Of course, the major event in the history of Raroia was the landing of the Kon Tiki. All Polynesians love to sing and play the guitar, and many evenings were spent while they serenaded us with the ballads that they had composed describing the romantic legend of Kon Tiki. with the decks of the Morning Star teeming with Paumotuans, including Tehau and Pai, who had aided the Kon Tiki, we sailed across the lagoon to the windward reef where Kon Tiki had landed. Looking out over the smashing breakers, we were in awe of the bravery of Heyerdahl, Danielsson, and their shipwrecked mates as they crawled over the slashing coral to the safety of the white-sand beach. Balsa wood from the Kon Tiki had been salvaged, shipped, and painstakingly reconstructed. The raft now resides in its original form in a museum in frigid, faraway Norway, so remote from this translucent atoll of the South Pacific that it may as well be on another planet. As we said good-bye to our friends in Raroia, we told them that we were going to Taenga. They replied, "Stay here. Taenga no good. Tres dangerux." "We had noted with interest how the natives of one atoll are sometimes critical of the natives of another atoll, so we took their warnings with a grain of salt. Back in Hawaii in 1973, I had met and swapped war stories with Guido, a German World War II ex-U-boat officer. He and his crew, Lydia, had just sailed their sloop Kis-Ky-Hei from the South Pacific. Guido told me about a remote atoll, Taenga, which he had accidentally discovered - a place where the natives told him that never in their history had a yacht called there. While Guido and Lydia were ecstatic in their description of Taenga, they warned us of the great difficulties with the currents and the narrow pass. I respected Guido, his navigational abilities, and his seamanship, so I mentally stored his information.
While not named on our American charts, Taenga was clearly identified and located only twenty-four miles west-southwest from Raroia on the more reliable French charts that we had obtained in Tahiti. I assured Shirl that visiting there would be a "peace of cake." (A phrase she had come to hear with uplifted eyebrows and deep suspicion.) The seas enter the lagoon over the windward reef, and there is continuous outgoing stream in the pass. As we warily crawled up to Pass Tiritepakau on the northwestern side of the atoll, we hadn't seen a sign of life. Guido had told us how he had stayed offshore until the Taengans came out in high-powered outboard-motor-driven boats and towed him against the current into the pass. Aloft in the ratlines, Shirl shouted over the wind, "The pass is too rough! I see white water in the middle." The current overfall was creating the white water, so despite her apprehension, I decided it was now or never! As the outgoing river of current began to reduce in velocity, with cotton in our mouths and white knuckles we shot into the main pass at full power, past the settlement, through the coral-toothed eighteen-foot wide mouth of the lagoon and safety. In retrospect, I would never try an entrance like this again. We had been very very lucky. Taenga was indeed the "tropical paradise" of the movies. The lagoon swarms with edible fish. Curiously, unlike some in other atolls, none is poisonous.
The handsome young chief, Tuarira Taharagi, made us part of his family. We dove in lucid-clear water. We speared fish and moray eels. We photographed the sharks underwater in the pass. Even they and the manta rays we photographed were benign as the natives and I swam along with them. Taenga is alive with marine life. there are so many fish that the sharks never go hungry. The native people had never been attacked by them, so we felt quite safe in our underwater photography. One cloudless day, the chief paddled his canoe out into the lagoon and told us, "Faarua ("northeasterly storm") coming. you must leave the lagoon and tie up in the pass in front of my maison." Our barometer was up - the weather reports from Tahiti carried no warnings, but I deferred to Tuarira's instincts and decided to follow his advice. As I maneuvered the Morning Star, Tuarira drove repeatedly to depths of forty feet, unwrapping our chain tangled around the coral heads on the bottom. With Tuarira piloting with hand signals, we had to exit the narrow pass and go back out to sea in order to turn around and effect the tie-up to the jagged coral outcropping in front of his house. Placing kedge anchors out in all directions in order to stabilize our position two feet from the coral ledge, we firmly secured the boat and settled down to await the Faarua that the chief had so positively predicted.
We had noticed throughout the Tuamotus that the Paujmotuans fervently believed in tupapaus ("ghostly spirits"). They were afraid of the dark, when the spirits would roam freely, so each night a dim light was left to burn to ward off the tupapaus while they slept. Roaring across the lagoon that night came a northeasterly fifty-knot gale. anchored in the turbulent pass, Shirl and I were awakened by the tearing and grating noises against the coral made by our fender boards protecting our topsides. With the wind howling through a large purau tree to which we had lashed one hawser, we struggled to windlass in the cables secured to kedge anchors in the middle of the pass. We were only twenty steps from the chief's front door and could see through the horizontal rain the tapapau lantern dimly flickering behind his shuttered window. As we pushed against the twenty-ton hull of the Morning Star, I yelled for Tuarira to bring some men. Reluctantly he appeared with three Paumotuan men who started to push the boat while I tautened the lines leading to the kedge anchors that were holding us off the jagged ledge.
The winds, now gusting to sixty knots, were setting up an eerie howl in the limbs of the giant purau tree. In one massive gust, the wind shrieked to an ear-piercing tone. At this, Tuarira and the other men ran in terror into their huts and abandoned us and the Morning Star to our fate. Crouched at the rail in the coal black, rain-swept darkness, Shirl and I spent the rest of the night jamming coconut logs vertically between the Morning Star and the razor-sharp coral. At dawn, the storm abated. Tuarira and his villagers sheepishly appeared. they conspicuously grunted their approval of the popaa and his wife and asked why we weren't afraid of the tupapas. No apologies. No regrets. A new day had arrived in Taenga. Last night was the past. tomorrow may never come. "Now we catch fish for breakfast. What kind you and 'Jurlee' like?" We found two twenty-year old American Mormon missionaries stranded on Taenga. These fine young men desperately wanted to get to Tahiti for Christmas, but until the next copra schooner arrived, no transport was available from Taenga. After listening to the entreaties of their superior on the ham radio in Tahiti, we violated our long-standing policy of no passengers and took them with us to Makemo.
In Makemo, the Mormons asked us to take still another member of their church - a Paumotuan named Babu - to Tahiti, so now the Morning Star was getting crowded. but we managed, and en route stopped to see Babu's relatives on Katiu, where, with the fluent Paumotuan-speaking Mormons and Babu aboard, we could barely cope with Polynesian hospitality.
On December 13, we left Katiu, sailing between Faaite and Fakarava. We were enormously relieved to be out of the Tuamotus, bound for Tahiti. A storm had delayed our departure from Katiu, so with only two hurried snapshots of the sun as it broke out of the dark overcast, we navigated to Tahiti - three hundred miles west of Katiu. Our passengers, including the Paumotuan, were violently seasick all the way, so it was with great relief that Shirl and I deposited them on the Papeete wharf. We sailed out to the west coast of Tahiti and placed the Morning Star under a custodial arrangement while we flew home to be with our family over the Christmas holidays. When we deplaned in Los Angeles, we were impacted by a reverse cultural shock. Thoughts flooded our minds. "Everyone is in such a hurry. Where are all these people dashing to? Why all the hectivity? Everyone is so uptight. Hurry up and wait. For what? What do they do with the time that they save?"
After another year in the South Pacific, it all seemed so strange. Our perspectives and values had subtly changed. Our perceptions of what is reality had heightened. We noted the preoccupation with trivia. We had been living in an ambience where our mental and physical preoccupation was with earthy things. Day-to-day survival, weather and its direct, proximate effect on us and on our plans. Nature - pure, undistilled, raw nature - manifesting itself in the uncaring, remorseless, boundless heaving open sea. the primitive, mountainous Marquesas - the sun-scorched glittering atolls. The star-filled heavens of the tropics. "Here we are back in civilization. this is where th4e action is? This where really important things are happening? This is where w were destined to live life to its fullest?"
As we watched television for the first time in a year and heard the seers and prophets of our day who call themselves newsmen relate their editorialized views of the news of the day, our thoughts turned back to lonely Tapoto. As we heard about the "religious" wars in Ireland and Lebanon and saw the killing, the terrorism - man's inhumanity to man - our thoughts rolled back to Taenga. In Taenga, they have short-wave radios. but they are listened to only because they convey messages for every possible family occasion - birthdays, weddings, deaths among the Polynesian people, whose multitudinous interrelated family ties are very strong, deep, and affectionate. In Taenga, the people are "deprived." No automobiles, no television, no movies, no newspapers. They don't really know what is going on in the world. but the mystery of all of this is that they don't seem to feel deprived, nor do they feel that their lives would be uplifted if they only knew more about the killings, rapes, assaults, or the latest Mideast crisis.
We neither saw nor heard of any evidence of ulcers, coronary artery disease, or nervous breakdown among the natives of the atolls. All of this made us ponder and appreciate our changed life-style more deeply. At the end of a month in the "real" world, we began to long for the Morning Star tugging at anchor in the azure lagoon of Tahiti, beckoning us to direct her beyond the western horizon into new adventures.
Storms And Coping With Fear
As the hurricane season neared its end in March, we sailed WSW from Tahiti to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands - six hundred miles before the wind. At the beginning, we had an ideal fair-wind passage, running before the trade winds with our boomed-out twins - exhilarating sailing and vastly preferable to our beat to windward from Hawaii to the Marquesas for twenty-six days. The feel of the notion of one small vessel at sea, the solitude under the stars, the smells and sounds of the sea, the song of the trade winds to our rigging revitalised our souls and blew the cobwebs from our minds. With jubilant high spirits, we were back at sea gain! The month at home had been just enough to make us appreciate all the more the life-style we had chosen for ourselves, voyaging on the high seas.
The euphoric sense of well-being vanished as the barometer plunged and a southeasterly gale pounced on us one hundred miles east of Rarotonga. For the next ten hours, we rode out the storm, hove to under storm jib and storm trysail. Fleet Weather in Hawaii had told us on the ham radio that a fast-moving front was bearing down on us. While this kind of weather information is useful to have, when you are at sea in a slow-moving sailing craft, there isn't a whole lot of you can do, except batten down and prepare for the worst. Our storm-survival technique began with shortening sail and heaving to. Depending upon se and wind conditions, we had to a number of alternative sail settings back the stay sail and reef the main, back the stay sail and allow the mizzen to draw, or back the storm jib and allow the storm trysail to draw. Our storm trysail was always in position on its separate track, to be hoisted with the mere switch of the main halyards. We think lying ahull in curling, breaking, large seas is dangerous and may cause a 360-degree rolling capsize.
Once while doing so with a deep-keeled sloop that I owned in the 1960s, we endured a knockdown that put the mast in the water, and that episode taught me an unforgettable lesson. although we carried a cargo parachute sea anchor, it would only be used to keep us off a lee shore. We do not believe in pinning down a sailboat in heavy seas in any way. Our worst storm at sea was a hurricane northwest of the gulf of Tehuantepec on the maiden voyage of the Morning Star. We had ample sea room - thousands of miles between us and the Galapagos, so we ran off before the storm with bare poles, dragging two Volkswagen tires chained and attached by swivel shackles to three hundred-foot-long, one-inch nylon drogues streaming astern out of each quarter. the winds, at seventy-two knots - gusting to eighty - were not that unmanageable, but the confused sea conditions set up by the revolving storm superimposed on a large northwesterly swell were intimidating. There is nothing more awesome than a storm at sea in a small craft, but Shirl and I had long since learned to face them with the following reasoning process. "What is the worst thing that can happen? The word thing is that we died. We have to die sometime anyway, and if we die out here, we die together."
We feel that it is inconsistent to believe that we are in the palm of Almighty god and at the same time cower in fear of anything. Long ago we had surrendered to the will of God and accepted whatever dangers we had to confront, with the idea that only without fear could we live life in its fullest. Fear, or the fear of fear, is at the root of most of our problems. the only antidote we know for fear is faith in God. This doesn't mean that we enjoyed these storms at sea but we did, in some aspects, behold them with childlike wonderment as we realized how great and powerful were the raging forces around us. there are no atheists in foxholes, and there are no atheists in a small craft caught in a heavy storm at sea. The sea will quickly destroy an over-inflated ego. It is remorseless. It is terrifying when it is angry. It doesn't care who you are, or who you think you are, or how much fame or fortune you may or may not have. The sea is neither benign nor malignant. It is just indifferent. If you defy it and its rules, it will kill you. If we went down in one of these storms, within seconds there wouldn't be a trace of our having existed, and the uncaring sea would eternally continue to crash and roll along without leaving the slightest sign of its act of violence.
As the storm blew itself out - an obscured sun shot revealed that we had crafted only twenty miles while riding it out. When we arrived in Rarotonga through the narrow slit in the reef called Avatiu, the officials expressed surprise at the earliness of our visit. They told us that the storm had blown down wires, torn off roofs, and uprooted many trees on the island. They said that the winds on the airport anemometers had gusted to eighty five knots. they looked at our unscathed vessel with wonder. The 300-foot inter-island ship Manuvae came into Avatiu Harbour. The captain, Don Silk, told me that they had been in the same storm and said that it was the worst he had experienced in years. He said that as thirty-foot seas reached as high as the bridge, the ship was "standing on end," and all the passengers and crew became seasick. Our confidence in our rugged little wooden craft continued to grow. We were the first yacht of the "season" to arrive in Rarotonga, so we anchored stern to the wharf with our bow facing the entrance to the harbour, totally exposed to the north. We experienced two northerly gales while at anchor here, but our lengthy chain scope and plough anchor held fast. The Yankee, Irving Johnson's former steel vessel, was wrecked at Rarotonga, and her rusting hulk, lying on the reef, bears mute testimony to the unforgiving treachery of a South Pacific coral reef.
Our five-week stay in Rarotonga was prolonged and blighted by one - only one - mosquito, which bit my face. It was a dengue fever mosquito. the dengue fever was a new phenomenon on Rarotonga and Tahiti. It was a particularly virulent strain and had caused the deaths of two children. Dengue fever is very debilitating, and the doctors told me that I would feel as if I were one hundred years old for three months. They were right. Sailing from Rarotonga, we had another six-hundred-mile dead-downwind, five-day run to Niue Island. Niue (Savage) Island is a ten-by-twelve-mile lump of coral limestone with thickly wooded hills about two hundred feet high. The Polynesians (Niueans) here are believed to be descended from a combination of Maori, Samoan, and Tongan ancestry and are fiercely independent lot. They speak a language of their own and had just being ranted independence from New Zealand. Now a Third World nation with a population of approximately five thousand, they enjoy a seat in the General Assembly of the United Natrions equal to that of any country in the world. But with a ten-to-one unfavourable trade balance, it is difficult to anticipate how a tiny nation like this can survive economically.
An intelligent, articulate Niuean official told me that a delegation from the United Nations had come to Niue and urged them to demand "independence." He asked me rhetorically, "Now that we are independent, what shall we do?" He told me that the Tanzanian member of the U.N. delegation, agitating most strongly or their independence, had gone back to Tanzania, where he was later assassinated.
On Niue, Shirley and I were interviewed for a local radio program by a very talented young Niuean. With mixed emotions, we heard ourselves on a Saturday nigh giving extemporaneous answers to questions regarding our sailing alone across the Pacific. We could only say that we are never less alone than when alone with god and his mighty sea and creatures abounding about us. From Niue, we sailed off our mooring with twins set while our cruising friends, bill and betty Whipple, filmed the action, from their sleek yacht Tyee. We were heading for Vava'u in the northern Tonga Islands - 2140 miles to the west. The easterly winds were really piping up in the Tonga Trench area, and we were running fast in confused seas. It was 1800 ship time. Shirl had just stepped out to the cockpit to check the steering vane. I was below on the radio. For some reason, she turned to look over her left shoulder just in time to notice an out-of-phase, towering rogue sea curling up over the quarter. I looked up from below, amazed to see this wall of water coming at me through the companionway. Shirl was hurled against the mizzenmast, where she hung on for dear life. I streaked forward to strip down one of the 450-square-foot twins.
For the next two hours, Shirl sat out in the darkness of the cockpit, wet and shivering, hand-steering the boat while I, in water up to my calves, manned the pumps. The diesel-driven clutch pump jammed, so I laboriously pumped the boat with the large manual navy pump, assisted by the electric bilge pump, which was going as well. When the boat was dry, we hove to for twelve hours, forty miles east of Vava'u. We worked half the night cleaning up the incredible mess - electronics, tools, drawers, charts, books - all were swimming in salt water. At no time during this episode did we feel an overriding sense of danger. We were simply too busy to panic. Cautions from "harbor stallions" had led us to wonder what would happen if we filled the large cockpit with water beyond the capacity of the self-bailing scuppers to drain. Now we knew. The grates floated to the top. Bill Garden had designed the Morning Star with so much reserve buoyancy aft that she just charged along after shipping the sea with her cockpit abrim and a ton or more of water sloshing around in her belly.
The Tonga Trench area is one of the deepest parts of an ocean anywhere in the world. We were hove to in three thousand fathoms of water - eighteen thousand feet, or over three and a half miles to the bottom! Also there is great live volcanic activity in this region, with submarine volcanoes erupting on the floor of the sea. I had blamed this even on my faulty seamanship - running too fast in steep following seas, a common error of small-craft sailing. But months later in Fiji, while we were with the famous British circumnavigators and authors Eric and Susan Hiscock, they told me that a similar episode had happened to them in the Tonga Trench area. It was Hiscock's theory that the great depth of the ocean and the volcanic activity may affect the surface sea under certain conditions to bring about the disturbance that we experienced. Our attitudes toward our ability to cope were nourished by this incident, and the whole event caused us to feel very humble in the grand scheme of thing.
After arrival in Tonga, we spent one week laboriously cleaning the saltwater residue off everything below. There followed five unforgettable weeks cruising among the islands of Tonga and living with the kind Tongan people. Captain Cook called Tonga "the Friendly Islands." We sailed down to Tofua Island to relive the experience of the mutiny on the Bo0unty, which occurred within sight of Tofua. It was here that Captain Bligh when attempting to land was stoned by the Tongans. The loss of the life of a crewman at Tofua caused Bligh to forgo any further attempts to land during his epic thirty-six-hundred-mile open-boat passage to Timor.
Tonga is a constitutional monarchy and has never really been under direct colonial control, albeit closely allied with England. Thus, the ancient Tongan customs are still very much a part of their everyday life. their daily meals are cooked in the umu ("earth oven"). We gave away our sea-soaked carpeting, and the Tongan women wove for us pandanus mats, custom fit to our cabin. We lined the bulkheads with Tongan tapa cloth (mulberry-tree-bark cloth) pounded and painted for us by the few nima potos ("clever hands") - Tonga women specializing in this art form. Tongans would paddle out to see us, singing out their greeting, "Malo le lei, malo e folau!" ("Good day. Thank you for sailing here."). We enjoyed numerous meals in their pandanus fales ("homes"), where we always felt uncomfortable with their custom of serving their guests first while they smilingly watched us chew every bite. We were the papalangi ("white men") and, as guests of honour, we awkwardly abided by their customs.
We were particularly attracted to a young Tongan couple, Lupe and Lau. the Tongans are desperately in need of employment and cash wages, so I hired Lope and Lau for such projects as painting, polishing, and varnishing. They would paddle out from their village on Utangahe every day. Lau usually bringing a fish. They worked with tender, loving care on any task assigned to them. We took them sailing to Kapa Island and a spectacular cavern called Swallows Cave. The tapestry of the lives of Lupe, Lau, and their four-year-old boy quickly became interwoven with our lives. One evening while Lau and I were sitting in the cockpit under the stars, talking about the timing of the work on the boat, he spontaneously said, "You know, Ray, here in Tonga, time is our servant. We are the master of our time. It seems to me that with most papalangi, it is the other way around. Time is their master and controls and regulates their lives. You ask, 'When can we get this done?' I say, 'I don't know. All I know is that I will do what I can today.' We Tongans don't think to worry about tomorrow."
As I pondered Lau's homely philosophy, I realized how extremely difficult it was for me to effect the transition from a totally structured life-style to an unstructured one. procrastination is contradictory to the American work ethic. To adopt a life-style where we can just be without the obsession to validate every moment by appraising what we are doing - what we are achieving - is extremely difficult. for me, the rearrangement of value systems is a painful process, and one not easily made overnight. I was learning much more from Lau than he was learning from me. As I told him about the Great Depression that traumatized Americans and the world of the papalangi, he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "How could American people go hungry, be cold, have no clothes, or be without shelter?" Lau said "Here in Tonga, we are poor, but we always have food, fish, coconuts, bananas, chickens, pigs - plenty. We can make tapa clothes from tree. We make our houses from pandanus. We make fires at night from coconut husks. Sometimes afa ("hurricane") come - blow down all houses, but everyone help and we make new houses. I guess, God plenty good to Tongan people."
The Tongans are a deeply religious people. Tupou, a young Tongan woodcarver who had befriended us, said to me "Morning Star name of Mary. I carve for you statue of Mary to put in bow of yacht. She protect you and keep you safe." He led me into the jungle and carefully chose a pua tree. He said, "I make telie ('statue) from this tree - its wood will marry the sea." From the time Tupou cut down the tree to the emergence from its trunk of Tupou's sculpted rendition of Mary, I was fascinated with the skills of this primitive young sculptor. After weeks of work, Tupou was ready to bring the statue to the Morning Star and affix it to the bowsprit - like the figure-heads of the sailing ships of old. When Tupou's work was completed, Father Philip King Turner, a young New Zealand missionary in Tonga, came out in a native canoe and, fully robed, appropriately blessed the boat and its new pilot in the centuries-old tradition of the Catholic Church.
Freshly oiled, painted and varnished, the Morning Star sailed from Vava'u bound NE into the trade-winds for Pago Pago, American Samoa. We wanted to be in the nearby American possession for the bicentennial Fourth of July celebration. Picking up a day as we re-crossed the date line, we entered Pago Pago Harbour on July 3, after three bruising days hard on the wind. Weeks of downwind sailing had soiled and softened us. Beating to windward again gave us a taste of what it would be like to head from this far west against the trades, back to Hawaii. One thought like this was enough to bolster our resolve to continue to circumnavigate the globe. The American Samoans went all out for the bicentennial celebration with Samoan war-canoe races, brass bands, marches - the whole works. Everything from stones and coconut trees to buildings and buses was painted red, white, and blue. The Samoan matai ("chiefs" or "heads of families") were just showing their rich Uncle how much they loved the annual gifts in excess of $100 million in outright cash given to the matai for distribution to their constituencies via the U.S. Department of the Interior. This was the most shocking waste of the dollars of the American taxpayers we were to encounter anywhere.
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States with seventy-six square miles and approximately twenty-seven thousand Samoans. the United States proclaimed this part of the Samoan Islands as an American territory in 1899. At that time, it was useful as a coaling station for U.S. vessels. The U>S. Navy abandoned its base in 1951, and the territory had absolutely no strategic value to the United States. As "American nationals," the Samoans can come and go freely to Hawaii or the U.S. Mainland. We, as American citizens, however, must go through Samoan customs and immigration procedures. American Samoa is administered by the Department of the Interior, and until the Samoans recently decided that they wanted only our money, not our governorship, the governor was appointed by the "in" politicians in Washington every four years. Millions in cash gifts to the matai are disguised from the surveillance of the American people within the bureaucracy of the Department of the Interior. Samoa's dependence on America exists mainly for the convenience of the Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean tuna boats that deliver their catches to the two canneries polluting Pago Pago Harbour. New Zealand cast off Western Samoa's dependence on their taxpayers, and now the citizens there are doing well running their own independent country.
The Samoan people are like other Polynesians, innately kind and fun-loving, but the corrupting and demoralizing influence of the United States throwing the taxpayers' money at them, with no strings attached, has had a profoundly detrimental effect. After a month in the Samoas, we sailed away with no regrets from this brush with Western civilization to an off-beat an island as we could find - back to true Polynesia, Uvea, or Wallis Island, three hundred miles to the west. This was a two-and-a-half passage with the only casualty a broken twin boom. As we were running before the wind, with the large Western Samoan Island of Savaii in sight, we accidentally backed the twin while I was aloft in the ratlines. The boom crimped around the shroud like a wet toothpick. all of a sudden, I had the backed sail and boom stub flogging away at me while I came down the ratlines like a monkey. Down with the unboomed twin. Aloft to lower the boom stub. Lots of action and many words flying in all directions. But there was no way we would go back to Pago Pago to repair the boom. So, flying on one wing - one twin boomed out - we oscillated downwind to Wallis and arrived ahead of our ETA.
Wallis is an overseas territory of the French: chief industry, copra; population, about eighty-three hundred Polynesians. The few French people on the island were extremely cordial to us, inviting us to dinner in their homes. The islanders were lovely, and no tourists come here. It was refreshing to learn that they remembered with affection the American troops who occupied the island during World War IO. We could have stayed in Uvea much longer, but the pressure of the approaching hurricane season was upon us. It was now late August, and we wanted time to cruise Fiji before heading out of the tropics for New Zealand. We stopped at Futuna and Alofi in the Hoorn Islands. The harbours do not offer safe anchorage, so we remained in these majestic high islands for only three days.
Heading SW to Fiji, we hard on the ham radio that one of the yachts that had been with us in Pago Pago had smashed on a reef three days earlier. The captain's navigation had gone awry in the submerged-reef-infested waters of the northeastern Lau Islands, and the vessel was a total loss. they had a crew of four, but stated that no one was on watch when they struck the reef. The reefs of the Fijis are littered with ships, fishing vessels, and yachts. These are dangerous waters in which to navigate at night. This was the most fatiguing passage of this leg of our voyage because in addition to navigational hazards our call at Futuna had put us west to a point where we had to tack against strong south-easterlies. One one tack northwest of Wailangilala Island, we, all of a sudden, saw the bottom coming up - in the middle of the blue Pacific! We jibed around in a hurried 180-degree turn just as a breaker exploded twenty yards off our beam. The charts call these events "breakers reported or occasional breaker," but this shoal was uncharted. Later, in the hydrographer's office in Suva, I showed the officials this area, and they said, "Yes, this has never been surveyed, and the charts originating with Captain Bligh are quite inaccurate, you know." Picking our way through the reef-strewn Nanuku Passage into the Koro Sea, we entered rain-obscured Suva Harbour on August 31, 1976.
For the last three years, we had been immersed in the culture of Polynesia. Now we were eagerly looking forward to experiencing and learning about the culture of the Melanesian people of the western Pacific.
Men From Under The Sky
One day in the year 1643 the astonished Fijians glimpsed the white topsails of ships of the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman on the horizon. there was nothing in their legends to explain these curious strangers or the land from which they came. They only knew that from a place where their empty horizon met the sky there suddenly appeared white-skinned men who would transform their destiny forever. the Fijians called them kai Vavalagi ("men from Vavalagi" - the land from under the sky")
Over a century went by before Captain William Bligh, cast adrift from the Bounty, sailed his lifeboat through th4e Fiji Island group in one of the most remarkable feats of seamanship in maritime history. On this, and on his second voyage in search of the Bounty mutineers, Bligh drew the first charts of the Fiji Islands. He charted thirty-nine islands, the largest of which was Viti Levu. Because the Fiji Islanders had a reputation for savagery and cannibalism, the islands were known as "the Cannibal Islands" and were avoided by European navigators. Fragrant sandalwood was in large demand in Europe. the European firearms traded with the chiefs of Fiji for the precious sandalwood altered the balance of power among the fiercely warring tribes, and the result was murderous chaos. finally, in 1874 - only a century before the arrival of the Morning Star - the great chief of the Bau tribe, Ratu Cako Bau, accepting cession toll England, picturesquely stated, "If matters remain as they are, Fiji will become like a piece of driftwood on the sea and be picked up by the first passerby. The whites who have come to Fiji are a bad lot. They are more stalkers on the beach. The wars here have been fare more the result of interference of intruders than the fault of the inhabitants. One thing I am sure of, if we do not cede Fiji, the white stalkers on the beach, the cormorants, will open their maws and swallow us."
Fiji became independent from Britain in 1980 - ninety-six years from the day the Fijian chiefs ceded the islands to Queen Victoria. The dominion of Fiji is a member of the British Commonwealth, and now has all of the problems of a "developing nation." there are about 320 islands in the group with about 150 of them inhabited. We found Fiji to be a fascinating crossroads of the Pacific, with a total population of 560,000 - 250,000 Fijians (Melanesians with Polynesian mixtures) and 288,000 Indians. A scattering of Whites, Chinese, and other races make up the balance. The British brought the Indians here up to 1916 as indentured servants to work the sugar cane plantations. They multiplied rapidly and now numerically dominate the country. Racial tension between the hardworking Indians and the easygoing native Fijians lies explosively beneath the surface of this society. The Fijians rigidly retain ownership of all of the land and control the armed forces and the police - the guns. but the educated and industrious Indians have quite naturally become established into the bureaucratic infrastructure and control customs and immigration and administer the multitudinous rules and regulations that were part of their heritage from their British mentors.
In Suva, for the first time, we encountered less than a hospitable reception. As the Morning Star warped up to the dock in Suva, we were boarded by a bevy of white-uniformed, unsmiling Indian officials. they searched the vessel from stern to stern - clumsily pawing through drawers of clothing. Their demeanor was rude and arrogant. As they confiscated our firearms, they meticulously counted every bullet. One particularly pompous Indian inspector said, "You, Americans! Why do you carry guns?" I replied, "My wife and I along are very vulnerable in many primitive parts of the world - places where there are outlaws and pirates - not like Fiji. also we use one gun to shoot large fish like sharks - which we sometimes catch. but you must understand that with Americans, the right to own and bear firearms is an integral part of the freedoms contained in our constitution and Bill of Rights. It was only with guns that we were able to get rid of our colonial masters, and we haven't forgotten it."
His querulous look showed me that it was simply impossible for him to comprehend the American concept of liberty. but he didn't really want an explanation. this particular official merely wanted to strut the petty power conferred upon him by his uniform. It was our first brush with this degree of surly officialdom, but as we continued to encounter the Eastern mentality, it was not to be our last. Kipling was right when he said, "East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet...." Shirl and I were determined not to let isolated hostility like this perpetuate resentment within us. We reasoned that the Indians elsewhere on Fiji couldn't all be like this. The beauty and adventure that we anticipated awaited us in the Fijis far offset brief annoyances such as this one encounter with unfriendly officials. Suva, the capital, is a fascinating lace, with Indians in their brightly coloured saris blending into Fijians wearing their traditional surus (wrap-around skirtlike cloths - lavalava or pareu in other island cultures). Although we sailed into Suva during the dry season, it rained torrentially almost every day, so after a week we decided to move to the dry side of Viti Levu to spend our remaining time in the tropics in hot sunshine and clear water.
Preliminary to leaving, however, we reprovisioned in Suva's pulsating open-air market. These daily expeditions always offered us fascinating encounters with the vibrant people of Fiji. Shirl purchased an intricately woven pandanus hat at a stand owned by a big, jovial, sulu-enwrapped Fijian woman. As Shirl tried on the hat, she asked for a mirror. The smiling Fijian said demurely, "You don't need a mirror, missy. Just look into your husband's eyes." How could anyone not be attracted by such childlike guilelessness? Fully reprovisioned, we sailed from Suva bound for a remote village on the island of Mbengga - the home of the Fijian firewalking tribe. We saw the Fijians of this cult - young men, old men, and boys - leisurely walking on beds of stones heated with open fire to over seven hundred degrees. They eagerly asked us to examine the soles of their feet after their fire-walking demonstrations. No burns whatever! Medical science has no conclusive explanation for this mind-over-matter phenomenon. Despite our tendency to deify science, there is much of this world and its creatures about which scientists simply have no answers.
In the village of Mbengga, Shirl and I had our first intimate contact with the Fijian people. As we were hospitably received into their community life, we were intrigued with the customs of these jovial, gentle, and fun-loving people. Kere kere ("the right to the property of others") and the sense of joy (meke) still is part of the Fijian village life. Fascinated, we watched outrigger canoes being adzed out of tree trunks and women making pots or tapa cloth. We thought, "How very different - how much more attractive are th4ese warm, gentle Fijians than the few dour Indian officials who had been so rude to us in Suva." Seeking to become still more immersed in Fijian culture, we set sail for the island of Kadavu, surrounded by the Great Astrolabe Reef, lying forty miles south of Viti Levu.
It is the ancient custom for a visitor to a Fijian village to present the chief with a gift of yaqona or kava roots. In the huge market of Suva, we had purchased a large supply of these roots to be used for this purpose. We had first become acquainted with the ceremonial custom of kava drinking in Tonga. Yaqona is ground into a fine powder from the roots of the pepper plant, then dissolved in cold water and strained through a piece of shredded bark of the vau tree. It is not an alcoholic beverage. Part of a welcoming ceremony performed when a high-ranking chief visits another village is the gathering of men only in the yaqona bure ("thatched-roof house") to exchange stories as they drink the kava from the bilo ("half coconut shell"). Tui, the chief of Solotavui village on the island of Kadavu, along with the villagers, met us at the water's edge as we waded ashore through the soft mud of a mangrove swamp. When the Polaroid camera began to perform its magic, the women emerged from their bures with their babies all dressed in their finest. Their reaction to the studiously examined colour pictures of themselves and their babies was so ecstatic and gave them so much laughter-filled, unalloyed joy that I continued to present them with their pictures until my film was gone.
As Tui graciously accepted my gift of yaqona roots, he commanded that "Now we have welcome ceremony for you, Ray." Although at a similar ceremony in Tonga, I had not acquired a taste for kava, there was no way I could refuse Tui's invitation. The women of the village vied with one another to hostess "Jurlee" in their bures, while Tui hustled me off to the ceremonial bure. Kava drinking is always a men-only affair. Tui solicitously directed me exactly where to sit cross-legged on the earthen floor in the circle of men surrounding the tanoa (a three-foot-in-diameter wooden bowl skillfully carved from a single piece of a special hardwood). The tanoa bowl was carved in the shape of a turtle. The complex, centuries-old ritual of yaqona mixing is always performed in the presence of the guest of honour. Tui explained that it is strictly taboo for anyone to come between me and the tui-ni-buli.
Finally the ceremonial mixing was completed to the accompaniment of chanting and the pounding of small wooden drums. then Tui direct4d a cupbearer to present to me the first bowl, with more ceremony and much respect. Custom dictated that I drain the entire bowl with one series of gulps. When the last dregs of the muddy substance had trickled down my throat, all the men shouted "Maca" (meaning "it is drained") as they clapped their hands. then the bilo was passed to Tui and, in the carefully designated order of rank, to the other men in the circle. Amid politely suppressed gales of laughter on their part and wan grins on my part, this process was repeated five times. Squatting in the dimly lit hut in this circle of black men, I wondered at their generosity of spirit in granting to me - a white man from "under the sky" - their highest of ceremonial honours. I also mused, "If only my friends back in distant America could see me now." After five large cups of kava, I felt none of the euphoric effect supposedly attributable to this vile-looking potion. but when Tui accompanied me back to our dinghy, Shirl said, "You may not feel anything, but the expression on your face looks to me like you think you can walk on water." Our remaining days in the Great Astrolabe Reef were spent in constant dread that I might be again similarly honoured.
Now we were headed NW for the arm western side of Viti Levu. When we checked in with the Indian officials in Lautoka, they were so cordial and helpful that we radically revised our opinions formed by our initial encounter with Indian officialdom in Suva. Then we met an Indian businessman, Uday Singh, who invited us into his home, where his lovely wife, Nirmala, and charming daughter, Shaleen, prepared a traditional Indian curry dinner for us. Uday insisted that we meet a medical doctor friend of his who was intensely interested in our adventures. The doctor friend prepared java, and we had an Indian version of the kava-drinking ceremony right in his office. They went out of their way to make right our initial, unfortunate experience in Suva. We, in turn, entertained them on the Morning Star and formed a close friendship with Uday and Nirmala.
Similar to the Chinese of Hawaii, their diligent and thrifty forebears had worked hard, lived a Spartan existence, and invested their small wages in the education and training their children. by dint of the exhausting work and rigid discipline of these sugar cane field workers, their children and grandchildren attained positions of prominence in the business and professional life of their adopted country. Again we learned the lesson how wrong it is for human beings to judge and negatively generalize about a whole race, nationality, or group of people by the actions of just a few. People all over the world share much the same aspirations and are more ready to extend friendship and warmth to their fellow human beings, of given the chance. For many days, we cruised the Mamanuthas and the Yasawas of Nadi waters. The water is translucent blue and green in colour, and a warm eighty-five degrees. As we swam, dived, and snorkelled the reefs, we were getting into physical shape for our passage out of the tropics to New Zealand.
We had invited an official of the American embassy - an old friend from Hawaii - Harlan Lee and his wife, Mary Jane, an American Peace Corps nurse, for an overnight sail with us to Malolo Lai Lai. We had a marvelous time, and as we disembarked them in front of th4 Regent Hotel back in Viti Levu, Harlan said, "The Morning Star is the only American-flag vessel in these waters, so if you remain anchored here, I will arrange a pleasant surprise for you. Senator Mike Mansfield and former astronaut Senator John Glenn are stopping here for a few days for a rest en route back to Washington from a fact-finding mission to China." For the next few days, Shirl and I found ourselves in the company of these distinguished senators and their staff people.
John Glenn and his lovely wife, Annie, were intrigued with the adventures of two middle-aged Americans sailing alone around the world. In 1962, Glenn was the first man to orbit the earth, and I was more interested in his stories of this historic experience. John Glenn is a wholesome, open-visaged type of man who radiates integrity. He makes you feel proud to be a fellow American. He is an aeronautical engineer, and at lunch one day with him and Annie, John drew sketches on a napkin, showing me how I could, by altering the underbody of the Morning Star, make her go faster. I was interested, but I said, "If we wanted to circumnavigate the world in a hurry, we could imply do it in a plane." I continued. "For example, as you wing your way back to Washington on Air Force One, every fifteen minutes you will travel the same distance that it takes us on our fastest day to cover an entire twenty-four-hour period." With his computerlike mind, John responded, "Yes, and in just thirty-six seconds, I covered that same distance in Friendship Seven." I thought to myself, "So much for trying to impress an astronaut."
During our extended stay in Tonga, we had become close friends with Philip King-Turner, S.M., a thirty-nine-year-old Catholic missionary priest. Father King turner, a New Zealand citizen, had been in Tonga for thirteen years on his mission. He had a three-month vacation, beginning in November, and he had asked us if he could sail with us to New Zealand from Fiji. In almost every port, we are asked to take passengers, guests, and/or crew but decline these requests as a matter of firm policy. the reason is that most people making those requests simply do not realize what they are getting into. They romanticize how pleasant it would be - how luxurious it must be - to sail over the blue Pacific to lush tropical islands with swaying palm trees and uncluttered white-sand beaches. The, when they find themselves pitching about in the open sea in rough weather, confined in a tiny living area with no way to get off, they get sick, irritable, and, in some cases, frightened. But as we came to know Father King Turner, who had been in love with the sea and boats all his life, we decided to take him with us to New Zealand. The son of a fisherman, Phil had grown u on boats ihn the rough seas off the South Island of New Zealand. As a missionary, he was accustomed to the lack of creature comforts, and he is a deeply spiritual, companionable, warm, and dedicated human being.
So promptly, on October 30, there was Father Phil, with his shock of flaming red hair, wildly waving to us from the wharf at Lautoka, Fiji. He boarded the Morning Star with all of the worldly possessions contained in a small cardboard suitcase. Within an hour, we weighed anchor, exited the pass from the sheltered Nadi waters, and were on the heaving open Pacific Ocean, bound southward for Aotearoa ("the Long White Cloud"), the Maori name for New Zealand.
THE LONG WHITE CLOUD
Armed with weather information obtained in Fiji, our strategy was to get west as fast as possible. When we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, out of the southeast trade winds, we would pick up the hoped-for southwesterlies, which would give us a favorable slant of wind to New Zealand - lying eleven hundred miles south. The first few days gave us warm, ideal trade-wind sailing - saltwater baths on the foredeck, shorts, bare feet, and moderate seas. Strumming his guitar in the cockpit, our passenger, Phil, was "bubbling with joy," as he described his feelings. Then as the Morning Star left the tropics for the first time in three and a half years, the nights began to get cold. Out came sweaters, jackets, and layers of long-unused clothing, buried in the lockers below. But we still shivered through our night watches as we became exposed to south-southwest winds sweeping up from the Antarctic across the stormy Tasman Sea.
With the hoped-for southwesterlies superimposed on the Tasman southerly swell, we encountered steep, confused seas, with winds ranging from calm to - minutes later - forty knots. this involved a lot of sail changing, and the storm trysail came out of its bag for the second time in its career. Although he had never before been on the high seas in a sailing vessel, Phil King turner took all the sea and weather threw at us with serenity and good cheer. Never once did a complaint or negative comment leave his cracked and blistered lips. A redhead, with a fair skin, is particularly vulnerable to sunburn and windburn. though aware of this, he exulted in standing for hours on the weather side and the cockpit or on the gyrating bowsprit, mesmerized by the huge Tasman seas curling and breaking toward us. As the Morning Star lifted to allow the seas to roll under her, Father Phil saw, with some wonder, the stability, seaworthiness, and relative safety of a properly designed sailing craft in action.
As we neared New Zealand, we were struck b a fifty-knot gale with thirty-foot seas. Stripped down to spitfire jib and storm trysail, we sailed through the gale. The only good thing to say about the treacherous weather around New Zealand is that the storms quite rapidly pass over or blow themselves out. During this brief period of heavy weather, Father Phil, upon seeing a particularly mean-looking sea roaring at us, asked "Aren't you going to turn into it?" That instinctive reaction was born in his powered-fishing boat youth. As the rogue sea drew near, I said, "Turn into it? No way, Phil! This is a sailboat! That is where the wind is coming from." As I spun the wheel, the wave, larger than the rest but in phase, broke and rolled harmlessly under our hull. Phil just looked over the shoulder at me and silently shook his head. On the eleventh day out, just at noon, Shirl and I were thrilled to hear Phil cry out "Land - I see land!" He had sighted the North Cape of his motherland for the first time in years. He was enraptured!
All of the mumbo-jumbo arithmetic that he had observed me doing had produced New Zealand after days of guidance sought and gathered from the heavenly bodies. so we hove to that night off the Bay of Islands, and exactly twelve days to the hour from leaving Lautoka, we tied up to Opua Wharf near Russell, New Zealand. We had sailed 1,296 miles over the bottom - fastest day, 160 miles, slowest, 70 miles. In the intimacy of a sea passage such as we had just shared, human beings can quickly become either mortal enemies or loving friends. Barely is there an in between. In accompanying us on this passage, Father Phil gave far more to us than we could have ever given to him. The New Zealand officials and the people on the wharf displayed the genuine feelings of kindliness and hospitality that so characterizes New Zealand and many of its people. I prepared a chart of our track, rolled it into a diplomalike parcel, and with due ceremony presented it to Father King turner, granting him the title of "Sailorman Extraordinaire." When he said good-bye, a sense of emptiness descended on our cabin as we realized how much he had come to mean to us.
A country the size of California, with only a million people, New Zealand here in the Bay of Islands radiates an atmosphere of cleanliness and tranquility. the clean, small towns are reminiscent of rural, Midwestern America fifty years ago. During the remaining weeks in November and early December - midsummer there - we cruised in the scintillating Bay of Islands. this bay of Prussian blue water encircled by jade green hills covered with fresh-smelling pine and shrubs must rate as one of the finest cruising areas in the world. Captain James Cook sailed his ninety-eight-foot long Endeavour here in 1769 and gave the Bay of Islands its name. He was the first European to discover this area, and now, just a little over two-hundred years later - less than three life-times - it was an enormous thrill for us to sail our forty-six-foot Morning Star in this great navigator's wake. But we had sailed to New Zealand for two principal reasons - to get out of the hurricane season of the Tropics and to drydock and refit the Morning Star before taking on the Indian Ocean crossing.
For many years, Alan Orama's boatyard in Whangarei had enjoyed an outstanding reputation among American yachtsmen. Orams was known for its skilled shipwrights and honest dealings. Errol Flynn had brought his famous yacht Sirocco to Orams years ago for a refit. The Morning Star had been sailed hard since leaving the Golden Gate in 1973. We had a list of projects that had been accumulating since we left America. Heading it was a revised system of sail handling, incorporating a design for reefing headsails that I had formulated over the years. With just two of us, sail handling had incr3easingly become a tiresome chore. There were many black nights at sea when I would be shaken out of a sound sleep by Shirl's gentle voice saying "Bay! Wake up! There is a squall bearing down on us!" My adrenaline would surge as I clambered from my warm bunk, made for the cockpit, evaluated the situation, strapped on a safety harness, and began my clutching, grabbing, waling, crawling tri to the foredeck. I would have to uncleat the jib halyard, then creep out onto the pitching bowsprit to muzzle the falling headsail. sometimes the motion on the bowsprit is like that of a superfast elevator, or that of a light airplane dropping in an "air pocket."
One night while out there on the foretip of the boat, hanging on and harnessed to the forestay, the bowsprit felt into a trough, and as a sea swept over me, I was momentarily submerged. When I came back up, sputtering like a walrus, I resoled that this folly had to end. If I went over the side, to lives could be lost. A couple of years ago, a friend of ours in Hawaii was lost at sea while dropping a headsail at night without a safety harness attaching him to the boat. His wife, on their yacht alone, was found alive forty days later between Japan and Hawaii by a Japanese fishing vessel. When we arrived in Orama's yard, I met Alan, and he quickly explained to me how he had recently sold the entire operation to his young foreman, Ray Roberts, and no longer had anything to do with the operation. An American yachtsman setting out to accomplish a major refit in New Zealand is extremely vulnerable for two reasons. One, he is operating against a rigidly enforced time frame - his six months' visa. He is forced to leave, with few exceptions, when his visa expires. Second, if any work performed is unsatisfactory, the defects in workmanship or materials usually show u after he is at sea. Unlike the New Zealand yachtsman, he cannot come back and seek remedy.
I, along with other American yachtsmen, was soon to find out that the new owner's basic business philosophy in dealing with Americans was quite different from that of the highly ethical and conscientious Alan Orams. It could be summed up by "let the buyers beware - they are here today and gone tomorrow." Already letters published in the Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin had indicated the dissatisfaction of other American yachtsmen with Robert's work. When he took over, Alan's crew of skilled shipwrights quit en masse. The friendly tradesmen of Whangarei - sailmakers, mechanics, and specialists to other areas - told me, in bitterness, how Roberts was charging an exorbitant fee for any work performed on a foreign yacht in the yard. This unjust toll, they explained, had to be passed on to the foreign yachtsman. They openly resented these tactics, but there wasn't much that they could do about it. As our voyage continued beyond New Zealand, we were later to find the true extent of the shoddy materials and poor workmanship that caused the projects performed by Orama's yard dismally one by one.
The reefing headsail project, however, was an unqualified success due to an independent machinist, Jim Bat4es, whom I sought out in his shop in McLeod Bay. I had read a book called High Adventure written by the famous New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first man to scale the summit of Mount Everest and the first man, after Scott, to reach the South Pole overland. Jim Bat4es had been chosen by Hillary to become a member of these expeditions because, as Hillary described him, he was the most innovative, versatile mechanic Hillary had ever known. When I explained to Jim what I wanted - reefing, not merely furling, headsails - he set about to design and custom-make the stalwart equipment that, working with him, we installed at anchor in McLeod Bay. Jim and I rowed the fifty-foot stainless steel spars, stretched between two dinghies, out to the Morning Star. the tedious installation could have been performed much more efficiently with the crane in Oram's yard, but the fiercely independent adventurer Bates would have no part of Roberts's extortion scheme.
Sailmakers had told me that this system wouldn't work because of the distortion of the reefed headsail. But I had been working with Noel Lloyd, a saddlemaker cum sailmaker, in Whangarei and between Noel and Jim, they design4d a genius that, with altered sheet leads, would reef down to a storms jib. Noel insisted that we give thee innovations sea trials, and I was so impressed with his conscientious approach to the development of this system that I had Jim and Noel design a genoa forestaysail, that would prove to be our salvation three years later in the Pacific as we neared the end of the circumnavigation. Despite our disappointment with the way things were going with Orama's work, we enjoyed our stay in New Zealand and made many friends in this beautiful country down under. The first New Zealander I had met was in the British English Army in North Africa during World War II, and I had always liked and respected this rugged breed. Our visit to their country generally enhanced this high regard for its people.
Following the war, New Zealand had outdone the British in their headlong plunge into socialism. while we were there, the newspapers and television contained daily accounts of labour problems. In a country of 3 million people, with an annual trade deficit of $1 billion, there are 290 labor unions. At any given point in time, there is one form of strike or another. By maintaining rigidly restrictive immigration policies, the New Zealanders, heretofore, had enjoyed relative prosperity and full employment. They imported cheap labor from Tonga, Samoa, and other South Pacific islands. These Polynesian people had lived in New Zealand for years. Now, as synthetics began to replace wool, and the experiment with the welfare state began to collapse, unemployment minimal by American standards began to rear its ugly head. The New Zealanders threw out the left-wing labor government and set about, as Britain is now doing, to unscramble the eggs of socialism, already deeply embedded in their system - to reinvigorate the private enterprise system.
In the process, the South Sea Islanders, called "overstayers," were rounded u and summarily deported back to their places of origin. As this process disrupted the lives of many of these Polynesians who had been in New Zealand for years, it caused great resentment and hostility among them, not only in New Zealand, but in the islands from which we had sailed. This fact was to have an important bearing on the adventure that awaited us north of New Zealand.
RESCUE AT SEA
The sun was 17 degrees north of the equator. We were at latitude 35 degrees south. Winter was setting in down under. The mid-May days were becoming shorter and colder. We had been living in lovely New Zealand for six months, and it was time to set a course north, back into the Tropics. The weather systems around New Zealand, influenced by the Antarctic, the Tasman Sea, and the Pacific Ocean, are notoriously fickly and treacherous. Gales off North Cape come u with little warning and great ferocity. So on May 9, with a low-pressure system moving in from the Tasman, we decided that the weather could only become worse before it became better. We left Whangarei with mixed emotions. We regretted leaving the many new friends we had made in New Zealand and somewhat dreaded the cold passage north. At the same time, we looked forward to cruising again to warm water among islands with coconut trees and whitesand beaches.
After a prolonged stay ashore, we both lose our sea legs, and the first night out is one that usually must be unpleasantly endured. but, as the Cape Brett Lighthouse slowly disappeared below the horizon, the seas were smooth, and a chilly fifteen-knot southwest breeze, put us on a broad reach - a comfortable point of sail for the ketch-rigged Morning Star. The next morning, after our nighttime watch standing - four hours on an four hours off - we listened to the weather from Radio New Zealand. At the end of the broadcast came a routine notice to all ships at sea to be on the lookout for a New Zealand sailing vessel that had sent a Mayday distress call eight days earlier. Her name was Hau Moana. She had been an entrant in the annual Auckland-Suva yacht race, which had its start on May 1. The second night out, the fleet of racing yachts had been caught in a North Cape southwesterly gale. The Hau Moana radioed that she had been dismasted, as had ten other yachts. A large section of her deck had been ripped off, and she was flooded. She had managed the single distress call, then - radio silence.
The RNZAF Orion patrol lanes had been conducting an extensive search, but no trace of the yacht or its six-man crew could be found. As I listened to the radio warning in the morning, I had an indescribably overwhelming premonition that w would find these people. At 1330, w were gliding smoothly along in clear weather. Jonathan, our wind vane, was effortlessly steering our roper course; and Shirl was sleeping in her bunk below. I, too, was tired from the interrupted sleep of the first-night-out routine, so I decided to go below and catch a couple of hours' rest as Morning Star took care of herself. But, before I did this, I routinely stood on the to of the cabin and scanned the horizon for ships. Far off our starboard bow, I saw a fleck of white appear and disappear in the troughs of the undulating sea. While I continued to watch, the appearance of white became constant. The object was closing on our course! When I laid the binoculars on it, I could see a tiny rag of a sail hoisted on a stub above a hull that was now taking form. Just then, an orange smoke flare went spiraling up from the craft. I shouted below for Shirl to wake u and get into her woolens, boots, and oilskins. 'within minutes, she was in the cockpit, wide awake and alert.
We altered course and rapidly closed on the vessel. We learned later that she was using her last ten minutes of fuel to get near to us. Soon I could make out the name - Hau Moana - and see four men and two teenage boys jumping up and down, yelling, screaming, and hugging each other. When we came within shouting distance, I asked the, "Any injuries or sickness aboard?"
While Shirl circled them, I got on the ham radio and instantly found an Auckland ham operator routinely calling "CQ, CQ, CQ. This is ZLILT." He was just looking for someone to have a "bit of a chat." When I came back to his call, I gave him our coordinates - obtained from advancing a dawn three-star fix, sun lines shot at midmorning, along with a meridian passage noon sight, and another high-angle sun sight shot while warily circling Hau Moana. I asked SLILT to phone New Zealand authorities and the skipper's wife. The skipper, Ernie Maddox, and his fifteen-y6ear old son rowed over to us in their dinghy as we hove to, three boat lengths from the crippled vessel. He told us that in the storm their mast had pulled out at the base, tearing with it a six-foot-square section of their cabin top. they had to cut the mast rigging free to prevent it from holing their hull, but they salvaged the boom. The seas flooded them below, and after their first distress call, their radio went dead from saltwater immersion.
The crew of six husky men had rigged the boom as a mast and stretched plastic tarps over the gaping hole in their cabin top. the jury-rigged sail on the boom was ineffective. They couldn't make progress back towards New Zealand - eighty-six miles to the southeast. They had burned u all but ten minutes of their fuel supply trying to power against head seas. Several nights after the dismasting, they had spotted a ship's lights. They fired distress flares, and a Tongan freighter came alongside of them. They thought that they had been rescued. From the freighter's bridge, it was quite obvious that here was a vessel in distress. They had fired distress flares. Yet, the captain of the freighter, claiming later at an inquiry that he didn't understand their English, steamed away over the horizon, abandoning these desperate men without so much as a radio call advising their position. when we found Hau Moana, she was inexorably drifting into the vicious Tasman Sea. They were quite naturally frightened. The next gale would have swamped them for certain.
Moreover, the Orions were searching over two-hundred miles from where we found the disabled craft, although it had drifted only twelve miles from the original Mayday position. We reassured Maddox that there was no way that we would leave them until we were certain of their safety. At midafternoon, the U.S.-made Orion patrol aircraft came roaring out of a cloud-flecked blue sky. they buzzed us just above our masthead and took the aerial photo that, we later learned appeared on the New Zealand front pages and national television. We arranged with the New Zealand Coast guard Orion for them to send out a surface tow craft for Hau Moana. I told the Orion radio operator that I would send a key-down signal every five minutes on 2182 kc. to enable the surface craft to home in on us with his radio direction finder. As the Orion continued to circle us, I decided to risk getting a line onto Hau Moana. the problem with this procedure was that two vessels joined on the high seas can collide unless one or the other has sufficient maneuverability and crew to keep clear. but if we couldn't attach to Hau Moana, we were certain to lose them during the night, just a few hours away.
I maneuvered the Morning Star in the swell alongside, and Shirl deftly threw a coiled line, which their eager hands seized at the first toss. Our line was secured to their anchor line with a sheet bend, forming an umbilical cord of safety. After experimenting, we found the only way in which the vessels would lie dead in the water attached together without colliding was for Hau Moana to be placed stern to the Morning Star, with their jury headsail set and drawing. The Orion left with the promise that a surface craft - the Lanakai - would arrive at approximately 0130. I requested that Hau Moana hoist a small kerosene lantern in her rigging. After the blackness of night had closed in, the pinprick of light from Hau Moana rose and fell, barely visible only three hundred feet astern of us. We took aboard their two coolest heads, one a paratrooper named John, to keep a chafe watch on the attachment line.
Now we just waited. John said that he had 600 jumps to his credit and that he had been on many simulated survival exercises, but this one was for real, and as they drifted out of the shipping lanes he told of the fears that haunted the men aboard their helpless craft. Although he was serving in the New Zealand paratroopers, John was an Englishman and was quite outspoken about his attitude toward New Zealand. When Mike, the big New Zealander, told us about the Tongan freighter that had abandoned them, he was quite bitter. I commented that it was a real mystery to me why the Tongan captain hadn't rescued them.
John said, "I'll tell you what, mate. It ain't no mystery to me! The Tongans hate the bloody Kiwis so much because of their being rounded up and deported that once the captain saw we were a bloody Kiwi lot, he and his crew said, 'To 'ell with 'em. Let 'em drown.' That's what I think, mate. His Kiwi shiipmate didn't say anything. In New Zealand, the feelings toward the English run rather high. hey derisively call their fellow commonwealth members "Pommys." quite often, we saw New Zealanders wearing T-shirts with the legends Pommy Go Home or Punch a Pommy today. John went on, "Look at me, mate. I've been down here ten years, training bloody Kiwi airborne troops. Would you believe that for me to go on this bloody race to Suva. I had to get a bloody exit permit - just like a bloody foreigner they treats me."
On a lighter note, they told me how they had loaded the Hau Moana with duty-free liquor. The custom was that after the race, the racers' families would join them in Fiji, and there would be a succession of parties and liquid celebrations. they lamented that "now that they were rescued, they would have to pay duty on all the booze they brought back" Mike said the only sensible Kiwi solution was to drink it all. At about 2100, I had been up almost twenty-four hours, so I told them to sit in the cockpit and keep an eye on the chafe guard I had wrapped around the attachment line, I explained that I wanted to catch a couple hours' sleep before the Lanakai got there. At midnight, I was awakened by the thumping of their wooden dinghy against our rolling hull. When I came into the cockpit, I saw that they were slugging at a bottle of duty-free Scotch, smuggled aboard on a trip to Hau Moana while I slept.
Not knowing what the rest of the night might hold for us, I said, "I don't want to be a hard-nose, but you guys aren't rescued yet. Toss the jug over the side." Without a moment's hesitation, John, the tough paratrooper, with a slip of his wrist said, "Okay, skipper, over she goes." Judging from the sounds coming from Hau Moana, they were trying as fast as possible to consume the duty-free booze. I said, "Now one of you take that damned dinghy along the attachment line back to Hau Moana. When and if Lanakai ever shows up, you can come back and get your mate. I need only one guy to watch that line." So, off into the night went Mike - back to his prison of the last eight days. At 0200 there was still no sign of the Lanakai, but I could hear intermittent bursts of static on our VHF radio. Someone nearby was trying to send a signal. Our masthead aircraft strobe light was flashing furiously. I figured that Lanakai must be close, so I loud-hailed on our A system, instructing Hau Moana to fire their last parachute flare. someone yelled back, "Fire our last flare? What the 'ell for?" By this time my patience was wearing a bit thin, so I yelled over the loud-hailer, "Fire the damned flare - now!"
Without another word, the night turned to daylight as the parachute-suspended burning magnesium brought out in stark relief the two vessels and the heaving sea around us. We carry a commercial 50 mm. Very pistol. but the flares are almost impossible to replace, except in major seaports. We cannot have them shipped to us because the airlines won't carry explosives. Had Hau Moana's flare supply been exhausted, I would have fired one of my own. but once free from this rescue operation, the sooner the better, the way it was developing - we were outward bound to places where no flare cartridges would be available. In another ten minutes the VHF broke into a jubilant "Morning Star, Morning Star, this is Lanakai. We saw the flare. We see your strobe light. We ETA you in fifteen minutes." As Lanakai's lights came up over the horizon, the bore straight for us, made a sweeping turn toward Hau Moana, now illuminated by our twelve-volt searchlight, and hailed, "Thank you, Morning Star."
Out of the night, pulling himself along the attachment line, Mike reappeared to collect John. He said, 'Ernie says to thank you, Ray, and to thank Mrs. Triplett." He asked, "Shall I cut the line when I get to the knot?" I simply said, "No, Mike, just untie the sheet bend and we'll haul in our line when we are sure you are safe. We'll keep the searchlight on you. Good luck. And tell Ernie he is most welcome." With that, our two friends - the Kiwi and the Pommy - pulled themselves through the seas along the attachment line. When they came to the sheet bend, they untied it, and our line went slack. We kept the searchlight on them until they crawled aboard Hau Moana, rolling in the troughs, in thirty minutes, it was all over. Lanakai radioed. "We have Hau Moana in tow. Bon voyage, Morning Star." We were groggy with fatigue, but had a sense of deep relief and gratitude that God used us as his instrument to saving these six lives. We set sail and resumed our course for the New Hebrides, lying seven hundred miles north-northwest of us. I stayed on watch until dawn to shoot Venus and figure out where we were, after drifting with Hau Moana for twelve hours.
As we charged along for the next few days, reefed down in fresh to strong winds, we gradually recovered from the exhaustion brought about by the preparation to leave New Zealand, the Hau Moana rescue, and six months of life ashore. Soon, the giant albatross began to become fewer in number, and the Southern Cross appeared lower and lower in the sky astern of us. Off came the down underwater and the hot-water bottles draped around our necks during our night watches. The sliver of the last phase of the old moon hovered in the star-studded sky above us. The sea was beautiful. We were broad-reaching north to the Tropic of Capricorn in ideal sailing weather. The reefing headsails were working perfectly. No more changing headsails on a pitching bowsprit for me. The New Zealand-installed deep freeze was full of steaks, and life seemed great again.
There, on the fifth day out - as we neared the variables - where the trade winds begin and the southwesterlies end - we were hit by squalls packing forty-five knots of wind kicking up rough beam seas. Shirley's entry in the log on May 15 during her watch, 0100-0400 "Rough seas, several in cockpit, I think I smell copra." My entry: "I hope not." Other log entries on this passage: "Winds NE. 25-30 knots . Reefed headsails. reaching at 6 knots. Beautiful sailing - getting balmy. Crisis of the day - vane line broke - replaced while hanging over stern. Water pump alternator belt broke while charging freezer. Replaced in nasty seaway in 30 minutes. Slamming into seas. Calms." Then, on the seventh day out of New Zealand, we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, and w were back in the tropics, where we and the Morning Star belonged. We were elated at getting out of New Zealand unscathed by weather and our general feeling of well-being was marvelous. Cruising was wonderful - the only way to go. Everything looked bright, but we had no idea what the next few days had in store for us.