Marquesas Morning

The tropical sun had not yet set the air on fire. The temperate sea held the cool, provisionally. Lush orange trees, heavy with fruit, coconut palms and precipitous verdant cliffs encircle the valley, the anchorage, the village of Hana Vave. Where the valley winds deep into the jungle, where the valley ends with a sheer green wall of old, thin, eroded volcanic rock, there is only darkness. The valley is hidden by the night, under cool diamond flickering stars set in an obsidian sky, under tiny fibrous wisps of clouds. Tiny clouds linger at the summits, awaiting the sun, to rejoin the daily cycle of their growth, growth into fluffy white coverings, protection from the sun, guardian of the moisture, defender of the cool air against the heat, clouds that enshroud the peaks during the day have receded with the cool air, and sleep, and breathe light warm winds across village, across the boats at anchor.

I woke in the darkness to set sail, to reach the next bay, to cross the open sea and arrive at the next Marquesian Island in daylight. Wild goats had begun to mow the wild lawn that tumbles down to the sea. The people of Fatu Hiva slept in the tiny huts of their tiny village, while sailors slept in their boats, in hammocks tied in the rigging.

Hundred foot high sentinels, with faces etched in somber brown volcanic rock, mediums who speak in deep staccato Polynesian voice for the spirits of the bay, to warn intruders not to violate the peace, the sanctity of the bay. The sentinels guard the entrance to the inner harbor, the gateway to lush interior, to the hidden waterfalls and private, wild swimming pools beneath, to the orange trees, banana plantations, to the streams that wind from waterfall to the sea, where villagers wash their clothes. The sentinels, in the darkness, appear to be pillars of brown soft volcanic rock, a great power, asleep.

In deference to the morning, heeding the warning of the sentinels, I drew the anchor chain carefully over the roller, and eased it gently onto the deck, with minimal sound, without the engine, without breaking the peace. I tried to contain the gasping and groaning of my struggle to hoist, by hand, the column of anchor chain which hung in seventy five feet of water on its way to meet the anchor in the depths in the outer bay. This is the deepest anchorage I have ever attempted, and thus the most work to recover an anchor. All of my strength was summoned to the task.

One hundred feet of 3/8" chain came on deck -- half way. I sat down, holding the chain, one turn around the bow cleat to take a break, because as I begin the last hundred feet the boat will be free of the bottom and will become adrift, and then must get the chain and anchor up, on deck, hoist the sail, and weave my way out of the bay hitting neither rocks nor anchored boats ...