The tantalizing aroma of tropical wood, sweet flowers, rich earth… land came wafting over the waves. The fragrance drew us in, filling our nostrils; more pungent the closer we got. It smelled like paradise. It is amazing how being away from land and all its smells heightens your senses, and 27 days at sea our noses were starved for the smell of growing things.
That morning sailing into the Marquesas the scent was incredible. I am sure that some of it must have been missing the smells of land, but nothing could parallel that fragrance… if I could make a perfume to rival that smell I would make millions.
When the sharp green cliffs jutting sharply out of the deep blue ocean finally came into view I nearly wept. The French Polynesian islands were stunning. Gauguin hadn’t done it justice.
As we jubilantly sailed into Hiva Oa harbor, marveling at the stunning landscape more than ready to check in and disembark. The harbor had 6 or 7 other boats in it and was well-protected by the steep slopes that rose sharply to three sides.
With sinking hearts we realized that it was a Sunday. We couldn’t check in. We couldn’t leave the boat, and even if we wanted to, not that it mattered because nothing was open. But after almost a month at sea I was a little stir crazy.
As soon as we anchored Sato San and Toshi San helped me put the paddleboard in the water and I went for a little excursion. I paddled up to a few boats anchored near us and said hi, and then I saw it.
A little black pony standing in the surf! I paddle boarded faster, determined to make it to the beach. I wasn’t *supposed* to go to shore before we were checked in, but it was a pony. Surely there were exceptions in those cases, right?
I paddled to shore, and a bit before I got there, a young man joined the pony and started washing him in the surf. I hesitated a moment, but paddled into shore.
“Bonjour!” I called using almost the extent of my abominable French. I did take two years of French at University. Unfortunately now my French is on par with my woefully lacking Japanese. My Marquesan is even worse.
The pony’s owner, James, was a tall Marquesan around 15 and though his English was worse than my French he let me pet his pony and invited me for a ride. Large for a pony, the sleek black horse was about 14 hands, just short enough that I could get on without a mounting block even from a rocky beach.
He led me along the beach with a rope around the sleek black pony’s neck and then somehow asked if I knew how to ride. When I told him that I did, he adroitly fashioned a rope bridle for my steed and gave me the reigns.
I took the little mount for a little trot up a hill through lush vegetation and into a little meadow at the top. I hadn’t ridden in a while and am not used to riding bareback in the first place so I slowed his jouncy little trot to something I would be sure not to get shaken off. He was a willing mount, well cared-for, and I was delighted to be on a horse again.
I was glowing when I made it back to Umineko. This was unquestionably the best welcome I had had to any country.
Unfortunately, the options for dinner or food had narrowed significantly. On the up side quarantine wouldn’t be able to take any vegetables from us. On the down side, we were all but out of fresh food. I had used the last of our potatoes in a curry a few days earlier. The difficulty for provisioning for a long passage… you don’t want to get too much food because in many countries customs confiscates fresh food and meats.
I’d done pretty well, but we had a modest dinner of pasta with Japanese seasoning packets. Each one comes with 2-3 individual servings and usually dried seaweed or some dried seasoning to stir in. In Japan these individual seasoning packets for pasta are common. They are incredibly easy too, just make the pasta and each person sprinkles whatever packet they want over their pasta. They are perfect for sailing especially if you have crew members with individual preferences.
Some people like to get huge economy-sized pasta sauce or other provisions, but I find that often I won’t use all of the sauce up before it starts to go off so I really do like the individual packet approach, at least for some things. There are a ton of flavors and this way each person can have whatever flavor of pasta they want. No mixing in eggs, milk, heating pasta sauce, sautéing onions and garlic to make it tastier. No muss, no fuss. Not the most healthy food but a real lifesaver when you don’t have a lot of provisions.
We would have to wait until Monday to get some fresh veggies, fish, and other provisions. And French baguettes… I couldn’t wait for the baguettes…