Thursday, August 03, 2006

August 1.Raiatea

The night of July 30/31st we made a short but difficult passage from Moorea. It started out as expected with 20+ kts from the East. We flew along under genoa alone and were expecting to get to Bora-Bora the following noon. In the evening squalls came, the wind blew from all over, sometimes calm, sometimes blustery. The auto pilot went south so we hand steered. I had put Bob, the windvane, to bed and there was no way he could have steered in that variable stuff anyway. I decided to heave to and hang until morning because we couldn't make reasonable way under power or under sail. In the morning it was calm, very calm, and we motored for a few hours into a bay on Raiatea where we remain for a second night. The anchorage is pleasant with habitation on only one side. At night the other remains totally dark. Lots of bird song too, unusual.Today we went ashore and walked a half mile to a large archeological site. It is referred to as an "international marae," or religious gathering site. The others I have seen on other islands have been more local in reach. This one seems to have brought together chiefs and priests from all over the Society Islands, the Tuamotus, Australs, and Cooks. There were extensive museum-type explanations on placards in the shade of a grove of trees. The pictures and explanations helped me understand some of what I have seen at other locations around the islands. The stone structures here are large and well-maintained. They are sited on a level area beside the lagoon which surrounds this island. A level area of that size is rare here and the backdrop of the blue lagoon and surf on the reef beyond is quite beautiful. I learned that the societies on these islands were at their zenith about the time of first Western contact. That means that Bligh, Wallis and Cook saw these structures in full use and as elegant as they ever were. In these islands it is so rare that I can read in English explanations of what I am seeing. I have also just finished rereading Typee. I found it all very stimulating and has made me excited to read more when I return to Seattle.