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It took us a couple of days to get Magellan into ship shape condition before she went back into the water, and we continued to work on her once she was in the water. We filled the water tanks and diesel tanks and made other preparations such as buying fresh produce. We wanted some time to readjust to the cruising life before heading back to Moorea, so we took off for the small island of Taaha for a few days.
We were anxious to return to Moorea, which had been our favorite spot in the Society Islands. The sail back to Moorea was uneventful and enjoyable. When we pulled into Cooks Bay, it felt like coming home. The guest dock at Charlie's hotel, The Bali Hai, in Cooks Bay was empty, so we pulled in and tied up. There was a great welcome-back party given to us by the bartenders and friends we had at the hotel. Soon Charlie turned up and tore up the bar bill. It felt like a real homecoming. Charlie invited us for lunch on Sunday, and said it would be a special meal. It would be our welcome-back celebration, and also it was some kind of local Polynesian religious holiday.
We stayed at the dock for a few days, and then moved out into the bay and dropped anchor. Some of the hotel guests were coming on board without an invitation, thinking we were part of the hotel amusements. The small inconvenience of rowing the dinghy into the shore was more than offset by the peace and quiet.
We arrived at the very beginning of the season and had the bay all to ourselves. Most of the boats coming from Mexico were just arriving in the Marquesas and Tuamotos, and wouldn't arrive in Moorea for a couple of months. We liked being alone and enjoyed the time immensely. We resumed the daily swimming sessions in the bay, which were even better in the solitude.
On Sunday morning Charlie came out to Magellan in his small one-man dugout, knocked on the hull, and asked me to go hunting with him for lunch. I jumped up, said sure, let's go. I rowed in my dinghy and followed him in his dugout to the hotel dock. We got into his very large four-wheel drive pick up truck. It was black, with everything chrome that you could make chrome. There were four rifles in the gun rack behind the seat. He drove off at high speed, with absolutely no thought of anyone who might be unlucky enough to be on the road while Charlie wanted to go wherever he was going. The white line down the middle of the road didn't exist for him, nor did stop signs.
We drove into the steaming green hills, with the dense jungle all around us. He was looking for something, but I didn't know what it was. And then he slammed on the brakes, grabbed a gun, and was out of the truck in a flash. He took two shots and let out a war whoop. He then calmly walked over and picked up the dog he had just shot and threw it into the back of the pick up truck.
This scene was repeated four more times. There were five dogs in the truck now, which Charlie announced was enough. He had to get home and get them to the cook. I must have blanched, and he asked me if I was all right. I assured him that I was.
Barbara and I dressed and went to lunch at Charlie's. I warned her not to eat the meat, as it was dog. This is not unusual in many places, like the countries of the Orient, but I didn't know that the Polynesians also ate dog. This brought to mind Rangaroa where there were so many dogs running free. Had we eaten dog when visiting our native friends? We concluded that probably we had, and we felt a little sick about it.
For a woman, dressing for dinner in all of Polynesia means putting on a paraeu. This is a large rectangular piece of cloth, which is wrapped around the body in a variety of ways. Nothing is worn underneath. It is the required dress. All the women wear them, and Barbara got into the habit and had paraeus in all colors. She enjoyed wearing them, as they were very comfortable in the heat and humidity. She also wore a bathing suit underneath in a matching or neutral color. This was then accented with fresh flowers in her hair. I wore the male outfit, which consisted of a bathing suit and a tropical shirt partially buttoned. Everyone wore sandals, flip flops, or went barefoot. The fafahinis dressed just like the women. Some of the men also wore flowers in their hair as some sign of availability.
Lunch was the usual family affair, except that Barbara and I didn't eat the meat dishes. We were sorry that we had eaten the meat dishes before; we had assumed they were beef. We continued to hope they had been beef.
We found the lunches and the people interesting, and we always came away with some new information about the locals and their customs. However, there was always too much alcohol served at Charlie's table. We tried to leave before the party got too loud and wild.
After a month or so, a new group of yachts started to arrive in Cooks Bay. We had a whole new set of friends and enjoyed ourselves a great deal. Barbara and I were very happy living on Magellan and being in Moorea. We made friends with several couples where the husband had been a fireman. We found that firemen were consistently the nicest, friendliest and most helpful group of people we had ever known. They tended to be generous and giving. The year before we had discovered this tendency, but dismissed it, thinking that the particular firemen we had met were nice but that didn't mean we could generalize. Now we believed it was a trait of most firemen. They helped me with boat repairs that were beyond my abilities and refused to take payment for the work. If someone was in trouble, they were the first to offer aid. Most firemen retire fairly young with a pension, and many go sailing. Most of the ones we met were on boats that they had built themselves.
In addition to the firemen, there was the usual assortment of yachties. Everyone had an interesting story and background. We met one lovely young couple on a magnificent million-dollar sloop. We had dinner with them a few times and very much enjoyed their company. One morning sirens awakened us. There were police boats pulled up next to their yacht. They were removed in handcuffs and taken off to jail. The next day the newspapers reported that the killer bandit couple had finally been caught and arrested. They had crewed on big yachts, killed the owners, stolen the boats and all the valuables, and sailed away. Sometimes they sank the boat, and sometimes they sold it in the Orient. We were chagrined that these people had taken us in so completely. They were a charming and good-looking couple, which was probably why people took them aboard as crew to their great sorrow. The gorgeous yacht they were on sat anchored in the same spot until we departed, as the police were looking for heirs of the now dead owners.
We had been introduced to other Mooreans by Charlie, and some invited us to their homes for dinner. One such character was Plastic Bob. He was called this because he made things of fiberglass and repaired fiberglass. If a yacht or surfboard needed repair, Plastic Bob was your guy. Plastic Bob had a large ranch on the next bay over from Cooks Bay. He raised cattle as well as doing fiberglass. He had invited us for steaks, which sounded very good to us, as we had been avoiding the meat dishes at many places and hadn't had a steak for a while.
When we arrived at Bob's he ran out to greet us covered in blood. I mean covered head to toe in blood. He had been slaughtering the cow for lunch. This sight was a bit off putting. His house, unlike Charlie's, was the typical shack built of palm leaves and woven floor mats. The furniture was rough-hewn and homemade, but really very nice. His wife was charming and friendly and we soon forgot about the blood. Lunch turned out to be very nice and lots of fun.
At the end of lunch he took me for a walk along the beach he owned, and offered me the beach and a big chunk of land in exchange for Barbara. I thought he was kidding, but then he assured me he was quite sincere. This would be a good trade for both of us, he said, and I could come and visit Barbara whenever I wanted to see her. I turned down his generous offer, but he really tried to sell me on this deal, and he assured me that he wouldn't give up so easily. He really wanted Barbara, and he was sure he would be able to convince me to make the arrangement.
He upped the offer, and said he would build me a beachfront hotel on the land he was trading me, and I could live off of the income from the hotel. I tried to convince him I truly was not interested.
A few days later Charlie offered me The Bali Hai Hotel for Barbara. At first we thought the whole thing was very funny, but these guys turned out to be very serious. Charlie also kept pressing his offer for Barbara. He was even going to throw in one or two of his young cousins in the deal. No thank you. I thought it was very funny, but the more Barbara thought about it, the less funny she thought it was. Gradually it occurred to us that these guys might dispose of me and just take her. The police certainly wouldn't care and would do nothing. The more they pressed me to trade them something for Barbara, the more uncomfortable we became. There were too many of Charlie's relatives who would happily kill a white man and eat him to do a favor for the king. I started to lock up the boat at night when we went to sleep.
A few weeks after Charlie made his first offer for Barbara, we were invited to a barbecue high up in the mountains. Two of Charlie's sons picked us up and we drove off for a long ride into the interior. We departed the asphalt and were on rough dirt roads for quite a while. Barbara and I were sitting on jump seats in the back of the pick up truck. We started to feel very nervous on the ride and concluded we had placed ourselves in severe danger. We viewed this as the dumbest thing we had ever done in our lives. I was certain I was going to be dinner and Barbara was going to be kidnapped for Charlie. It turned out just to be the advertised wild pig barbecue, but I was nervous and sweating the entire time we were there up in the uncharted part of the island. Even the Gendarmes do not venture into this part of the interior. It was gorgeous, and we ate next to a raging waterfall surrounded by a mixture of splashes of bright colors created by tropical flowers in greater profusion than we had ever seen. The mist from the waterfall caused the flowers to flourish.
We did not sleep well for a couple of nights after that lunch, thinking about how lucky we were to be alive. Had they killed me and taken Barbara, no investigation would have taken place. I would have disappeared and that would be it.
The Polynesians have strict rules about sex and whom you may have sex with, and when it is taboo. The basic rule is that all cousins of any degree are fair game. When you get married, you then obtain the sexual rights to all of your spouse's cousins as well. Since these people have eight to ten kids, there are lots of cousins. If you go outside of that large group, you are in trouble. If you have sex outside of the permissible group, you could lose your life. Your sexual companion's spouse or parent is allowed to kill you if he or she wants to. This killing is totally free from any penalty or punishment. The injured party has an absolute right to kill a transgressor. We had learned most of these rules on the other islands we had visited. We now knew many more details about it.
The rules of Polynesia in regard to "we kill you, we eat you" are basic to the Polynesian view of life. Religious killing is not only legal, but is held to be correct and necessary. In addition, their definition of an invader or an enemy is given a wide latitude. Killing is part of their religion and culture. They need to kill and eat human flesh to complete their service to their gods, and they kill people who cross boundaries, be they sexual boundaries or religious boundaries or physical boundaries.
They have many festivals where they dress up in their warrior outfits and dance around. They have races while carrying heavy loads as preparation for carrying off someone during a raid to a nearby island. The tourists come to see the dancing and racing, but the tour guides neglect to explain the true nature of these activities. They are colorful and interesting to watch. They lose their appeal, however, when you understand that they practice running with heavy loads of one hundred kilos per man because that's what they'll need to do to carry off an enemy in order to be able to eat him.
The French have done their best to discourage these practices with no success at all. There have been some bloody confrontations when the Gendarmes have pressed them too hard. We knew all about it, but didn't think it had anything to do with us.
We were at a Sunday lunch at a local's house with the large family sitting around in a circle eating. A young woman came into the room carrying a large war club. She calmly walked over to another young woman who was sitting and eating with us, and beat her viciously over the head with the club. Blood splattered on the table. She killed the girl, and continued to beat her for a long time. Barbara and I sat there in horror, knowing we must not do anything or to say anything about this incident. The girl who was killed was the daughter of the host, and he just sat there, said nothing, and continued to eat like nothing had happened. Everyone kept eating and ignored the incident like it never happened. The killer departed, and the dead girl was left lying on the floor in a pool of blood.
The dead girl had had sex with the husband of the killer, and he was outside of the permitted group of people with whom she could do this. Therefore the killing was legal and everyone was just fine with it. They finished the meal, although Barbara and I had lost our appetites.
Everything changed for us after this happened. We had managed to more or less accept their culture up until this point. The French are right about Americans; we did think they had "rights" to their own civilization and religion. We sympathized with their feelings about the missionaries and the French. We did not approve of the killing and cannibalism, of course, but we felt that they were entitled to handle things their own way. However, our acceptance of their culture was beginning to crumble. It started to crack the night of the bonfire, and more so when we met the replacement missionaries and their ten-year old son. The offers for Barbara were becoming scary. After the clubbing murder at dinner and the reaction of the other people, we felt sick at heart. However, this disenchantment was happening gradually. These people had been kind to us. They had welcomed us into their homes. They had been generous and gracious. They had saved my life. Despite our changing feelings, we were very reluctant to make absolute and negative judgments about them.
So when one of the natives, Fred, invited me to go into the jungle with him to check some of his animal traps, it didn't occur to me to decline. Fred was a sweet man whom I liked very much. I had no fear whatsoever about going anywhere with Fred. I felt he was quite safe, but in retrospect I wonder how I could have risked going into the dense jungle with a person whose intentions I could not be sure of.
We walked into the jungle for about twenty minutes. I was totally lost, as usual. As beautiful as the jungle is, it is equally dangerous. One must have local knowledge of the area, or be with someone who does. There are snakes, spiders, poisonous plants, quicksand, and other frightening things. You walk in the footsteps of your guide, and don't stray. We came to a clearing in the jungle. The area was dead. There was nothing growing in a large circle. In the middle of the area there was an idol. Fred explained to me that it was a tiki, and that it was dead, and that is why everything around it was dead. I laughed to myself thinking this was stupid. How could a carved stone statute be either alive or dead? A little way farther along our walk we came upon another tiki. This time there were flowers all around and lush greenery, which was how most of the jungle, was, except that the flowers here were more profuse, growing everywhere, and growing on everything.
Fred said, "Whatever you do, do not touch any tiki." He explained they were very powerful, and dangerous to everyone. He told me to go tear off a couple of large flowers and carefully put them on top of the tiki without touching it, and to take care to remember how I put the flowers down, their color, and how I placed them. I did as he instructed, and we continued walking along. I was thinking that this was ridiculous.
Ten days later Fred invited me to come back with him to his jungle. He owned this piece of the island and had exclusive rights to it. This was a tribal inheritance that had been in his family forever. He had a right to kill anyone who hunted on, or was even found in, his private domain. I went with him, and soon found myself back in the same clearing with the tiki. He told me to go over and check the flowers I had put on top of the tiki, and again to be very careful not to touch it.
To my amazement the flowers I had put on the tiki were still there, as fresh as they had been ten days ago when I put them there. They were the same flowers I put there, exactly the same way I had put them there. In the ten days they had been there, they had not been touched. They had not died, or wilted, and were just as fresh as the day I picked them and put them there. Fred explained to me it was the power of the tiki that had kept the flowers fresh and alive. I was shocked - this defied nature. This could not happen. It had to mean that the tiki had some kind of power.
The SSCA reported several stories about tikis, and their strong advice was, "Never touch an idol." They claimed that more than one boat over the years had stolen a tiki from an island, and the boats disappeared and were never heard of again. I thought they had gone a bit too far by reporting this nonsense. I wasn't so sure anymore. The Polynesians all have idols in their homes and talk of their powers. I thought it was silly, but knew that they believe in the power of the tikis absolutely. Now, however, I could not so easily dismiss what I had seen with my own eyes.
When I was a kid, the schools used to post the Ten Commandments. I therefore knew that the second commandment tells us not to have an idol in our possession, or to worship an idol, or to make an idol for yourself or for anyone. Even though I was totally irreligious, I was uncomfortable around the idols. I felt that there was something disagreeable about them.
I began to feel very uptight around the locals. Up until this point, I had totally dismissed their religion and their belief in idols as primitive pagan nonsense. The faith that they had in their idols is what caused their hatred for the missionaries. If someone owns an idol which he believes protects him and his family, and then an outsider comes and tells him he has to get rid of his idol, it doesn't sit well. If the outsider is viewed as an invader and enemy and tries to take or break the idol, he is probably in serious trouble.
Shortly after these disturbing events took place in the jungle, Charlie came and invited me to go fishing with him the next day. He said he would pick me up from Magellan in the morning.
The following morning there was a knock on the hull. It was Charlie in a dugout canoe with three of his huge Moorean buddies. He told me to get into the canoe, which I did. They rowed out to the reef at the entrance of the bay and Charlie picked the spot to stop. He then took out small pieces of wood from under his seat and started to build a fire. He soon had a small fire burning in the bottom of this wooden boat. A fire in a wooden boat!
When the fire was burning hot, Charlie took a small bag from the pocket of his bathing suit. He sprinkled pinches of the powder it contained into the fire. A very strong pungent odor with thick smoke came out of the fire. This was some sort of incense. He then removed the small idol he wore around his neck. We never saw him without this stone carved image. It was held with a complexly woven hemp cord. He held it by the cord and began to wave it back and forth in the fire. He kept adding small pinches of the incense into the fire. He continued swinging the idol in the smoke. He would now and again dip the idol into the water, and then wave it around in the smoke. This went on for five minutes.
All of the time he was performing this ritual, he was chanting a long and repetitive verse or song in Moorean. He then put the idol back around his neck, and sat there with his arms folded on his chest.
As soon as Charlie completed the ritual and sat still, dozens of fish started to jump out of the water and into the boat. These were smallish red fish with large eyes. They were about six inches long, flattish, and about four inches wide. I had seen this type of fish for sale regularly in the markets of Moorea and Tahiti.
The fish continued to come and jump into the boat. This went on for several minutes. There were a substantial number of fish piling up in the bottom of the canoe. Charlie then took a small wooden cup, filled it with water over and over again, and put out the fire. He stated very matter of factly that we now had enough fish. He instructed the oarsmen to take us back home as the fishing was done. Charlie just sat there very kinglike and pleased with himself for having done a good day's work. During this entire episode I just sat there with my mouth hanging open. I was at a loss of what to say. I was so amazed by what was taking place that nothing I could say seemed appropriate.
I believe that it was Charlie's intent to take my breath away and to leave me speechless. He was openly demonstrating his powers of magic to me. There was a clear motivation on his part to shock me, which he certainly did. The body language of the others in the canoe showed me that they were not happy that there was a white man along watching this ceremony. Not that they feared I could duplicate it or steal their secrets, but rather that they didn't want their private practices known to outsiders.
They rowed me back to Magellan and dropped me off. I was still unable to talk. Charlie told me that Barbara and I were coming to lunch, it was being served at noon, and we would be eating the fish we just caught, you will please come. It was much more of an order than an invitation. I assured him we would be there in a stumbling mumbling response. He said his son would come and pick us up to drive us to his house.
I went onboard very much in a state of catatonic shock. I sat down in the cockpit as the dugout canoe rowed off to shore. Barbara called to me and I responded with a grunt. She came up on deck and wanted me to tell her about the fishing trip. She could see I was behaving very strangely and wanted to know what was wrong with me. I related the story briefly to her. She couldn't believe what I had told her. I couldn't believe what I was telling her. It seemed like I was in a dream. The whole thing was fantastic and unreal. It was so very difficult to believe, ingest, or to comprehend the event which I had just witnessed. I had quite simply seen the use and power of black magic, or witchcraft, or whatever it's called. Charlie was tapping into the forces beyond the natural and physical which exist in the universe. I saw it work. I now knew that black magic is real.
What I had witnessed was in direct contravention to what I knew the physical world was. My firm conviction that there was nothing beyond the physical had been proven to be wrong. There had to be or else how had Charlie managed to get those fish to jump into the boat?
I knew that the natives in many primitive places believe in Voodoo, black magic, or witchcraft. I had always believed that they were just tricks that don't really work. Many tribes in Africa have witch doctors or magicians. They allege they can do magic. The Haitians claim their voodoo is real and that it works. I now believed that some of them were right. I know what I saw. I saw it work. I knew that it was evil and real.
I had no rational reason for believing that it was evil; why not if you can do it? It was a gut feeling.
Barbara kept asking me to tell her every detail of what took place, which I did. It wasn't a complex story. The more I repeated it, and relived it, the more unnerved I became. What I had seen was wrong and bad. By the time Charlie's son came to pick us up to go to lunch, I was in a somber mood. The ride up the hill was very quiet. This son was one of the Polynesians who hated us and I wondered if this was more of Charlie's plot - was he trying to drive me crazy so he could have Barbara?
We went to lunch, but I just couldn't eat the fish. There seemed to be something terribly wrong about eating fish which had been caught by witchcraft. It disturbed me a great deal. I thought about Fred, and the tikis that he had showed me, and their powers. I thought of those fish jumping into the canoe. I couldn't take my eyes off of the idol around Charlie's neck. I was very tense and wanted to leave. I can't think of any time in my life that I had been so uncomfortable. We left as soon as it was possible to do so.
The events of this day had dealt a major blow to my belief system. I had always clung to the belief that there was no such thing as the supernatural. I was certain of it beyond a reasonable doubt. Everything was fully explainable in physical terms. There were molecules, electrons, gravity, and the physical forces of nature, and they controlled how everything operates. There had been hints that this was not true both in terms of evil and goodness; there had been the incident in the analyst's office and there had been the miraculous salvation from the hurricane. I had acknowledged the reality of these things at the moment they occurred, but had quickly dismissed them from my mind. The very excruciating conclusion which I was forced to accept was that if magic really exists there is indeed a reality beyond the natural, something supernatural or spiritual. If there is really something spiritual, then there must be a God, something that transcends the physical. There must be something more than we can see, feel and touch. This entity must have control and power over our lives and us.
I did not want to accept these facts, and yet I couldn't dismiss them from my mind. I spent a lot of time trying to make sense of everything, and no matter how I turned things around and tried to "reason" myself out if it, I continually reached the same, somewhat shocking, conclusion that there must be a God. It's surprising that this was such a shock, since millions of people who practice a wide variety of religions believe in God. I was, however, angry about believing this. Despite the fact that God had saved us in several certain-death situations, and although we had acknowledged that it was God who saved us, it was difficult for me to swallow this.
I believe I felt angry because if this was true, I was not in control, and not being in control didn't sit well with me. I also felt angry because if there was really a God, then I had been wrong all of my life; I had been foolish. I was chagrined to think that people who believed in God, people I had felt pity or contempt for, had been right all along, while I, the smart one, the Mensa member, had been mistaken. I very much disagreed with the practices in some religions, but the central fact that God exists and is control seemed indisputable.
How strange that I had come to "find out" about God through the magic practiced by the Polynesians. I began to think of this as the evil side of spirituality. Their deviations from what Western religions consider morally acceptable (even given the widest possible latitude), such as eating human beings in religious ceremonies, were, I felt sure, evil. But I also thought that these people were evil because they chose to be evil. It never crossed my mind to think that the Polynesians had no choice, i.e., that evil had taken hold of them like some malignant demon. They liked it; they approved of it; it was comfortable for them. It began to dawn on me that this sort of evil exists so that the principle of free choice can operate.
Barbara and I talked about all of this a great deal, and then our discussions took an unexpected turn. We came to a startling idea - evil apparently can serve another function in addition to providing a choice between good and evil; since the evil of black magic had opened our minds and hearts to the truth about God, perhaps evil was also some sort of tool God uses to awaken people from spiritual sleepwalking.
I started thinking about the other customs practiced in Polynesia. Incest is completely acceptable because a person's family is included in the group of permitted sexual liaisons. In addition, this is a matriarchal society and the first-born males of every family are raised to be homosexuals in order to help the mother. They are dressed as women, treated as women, and are given a respected place in society. They do the housework, cook, and help raise the other children in the family. They are called fafahinies. It is a title of respect, and not of derision. You see the fafahinies swishing about everywhere. They wear make up, use the ladies room, and act totally as if they are women. I tried to get an explanation about them from my friends, but never really got any answer about them, other than being told to respect them, and to treat them nicely.
The Polynesians cut off hands and feet for various misdeeds such as stealing. I had tried to get more information about this practice but wasn't answered. If a Polynesian doesn't want to talk about something he just ignores you and doesn't talk. You get the message quickly and shut up.
The fact that the Polynesians practiced ritual murder, cannibalism, incest, and magic had up until now been interesting academic details to us. We were not interested in changing them or converting them to anything. But now it was getting to us. We were becoming more and more uncomfortable with this code of behavior, and with being around them. We still liked our Polynesian friends, but it was time to go.
The natives felt the same way; they were becoming tired of us and wanted us to go. We had overstayed our welcome and they were starting to let us know it. They weren't used to visitors staying for such a long time; no one had ever before stayed for two seasons. They started to say things like, "Are you still here? What are you still doing here?"
Charlie's feelings for us had clearly changed as well. I think he was angry because I wouldn't give him Barbara. If I was perceived to be an enemy, they could kill me and eat me and then Barbara would be fair game. I understood this and was frightened by it. The Polynesians had been completely open with us about their hatred of the white man, so it wasn't surprising, really. But it was a bit depressing.
The Gendarmes paid us a visit on Magellan and handed us a document. It was a notice of a new law just enacted, called the "Magellan Amendment." It closed the loophole we had used to stay more than one season. The law now clearly stated that no yacht could be in French Polynesia for more than six months, in or out of the water.
This might have been a crushing blow earlier, but it wasn't now. We believed that these islands truly were paradise as far as their physicality was concerned, but it now seemed bizarre that these lush and gorgeous places were occupied by people who practiced black magic and cannibalism. The pristine beaches, the white sand, the verdant vegetation, the palm trees, the orchids and flowers, the birds and fish - all had served to blind us to the evil lurking just below the surface. Perhaps the French are correct, and it's better not to be here long enough to find out what goes on. We had enjoyed our stay immensely, but knew it was time to move on. We had seen enough of Paradise.
It was ironic that such a beautiful and bountiful place had inhabitants who were so angry. Each group hated everyone who didn't live on their island. They not only hated the people on the next island, but wanted to kill them. They hated the white man, they hated the Christian missionaries, and they hated the French.
We had enjoyed our second season in Polynesia almost as much as we had enjoyed the first. The crystal clear, warm, water, the magnificence of the vegetation and flowers, and the many friendships we had made both with other yachties and the natives were very precious to us. Despite our misgivings, the time we spent in the South Pacific as a whole had been wonderful. Still, just as we had loved Mexico but the time had come to leave, so, too, it was time to go.
The hurricane season was approaching, and it was time to go. We still did not want to continue to the west. We did not want to deal with the Fijians or their Kava. We couldn't sail east because of the wind and tides. We had enjoyed Mexico but had no desire to return there. Going west and farther south would have been tempting, but the sailing is too difficult. Australia and New Zealand have notoriously large waves and high winds which we were not interested in at all. The South China Sea is pirate heaven and not worth the risk. The Indian Ocean has no good seasons; it's either cyclone season or hurricane season. I never could grasp the difference between a cyclone and a hurricane, but I knew to avoid them both. The Red Sea is full of pirates, and it's illegal for a Jew to be in most of the territorial waters around there. So that was out too. Going far south and around Africa is too dangerous. The southern latitudes are known as the roaring sixties and screaming seventies because the winds roar and scream all the time. The seas there are never calm. The waves are always large and dangerous.
We really had no choice but to ship Magellan as deck cargo on a freighter to Europe. We arranged with a shipping agent to handle the transaction for us and booked passage for our boat on a freighter bound for Antwerp.
We took a few more short trips to Raiatea and then back to Tahiti to decommission our boat and get it ready to ship. The mast had to be removed and lashed to the deck. All the sails had to be stowed below deck. Everything which could go into the cabin was stored there and secured so as not to move. It took me four days of hard work to get everything done. Magellan was then hauled out of the water and placed into a custom built wooden cradle for shipping. We were forced to move into a hotel for the last few days in Polynesia, as we could no longer live onboard. We hated staying in a hotel. Having gotten used to living on Magellan, we couldn't stand living in a hotel for even a few days. In addition, we were now anxious to depart.
As soon as Magellan was secured for shipping we got on a plane and went to Paris. We spent the couple of months which it took Magellan to come half way around the world in our home in the Loire Valley of France. We were unhappy without Magellan, and worried about our boat the entire couple of months we waited for her to arrive. We missed being onboard. We busied ourselves doing tourist things in France. We visited Paris every ten days or so. We went back to our painting teacher, and painted every day.
The day Magellan was to arrive in Antwerp, we were waiting and anxious to get our hands on her and to get back on board. The red tape and procedures in Belgium were obnoxious. The people were nasty and rude for no apparent reason. I now was speaking French well and communication was no problem, but because of the roadblocks they put in our way, it took almost a week to get Magellan back in the water. The customs broker extorted several thousand dollars from us. Customs illegally charged us duties that were not really owed by us. They had us over a barrel and took advantage of the situation. We swore never to go back to Belgium for any reason, ever.
It was our plan to motor through the canals of Europe for a year or so. We had maps of the canals and detailed information (most of which turned out to be wrong). We motored almost non-stop to get out of Belgium. The canals were charming, and the countryside beautiful. However, we didn't like the constant steering and sitting behind the wheel. You had to pay attention closely so as not to bang into the concrete walls of the canal. It was similar to driving down a narrow highway in a car.
Several places where the guidebooks told us we could tie up for the night would in fact not allow any guests at all. The police chased us off of a couple of docks we had been forced to tie up to, as there was no commercial anchorage or marina available. Finally we crossed into Holland, only to be confronted with a new set of red tape and regulations. The Dutch were crazed that you not live in Holland, and that Magellan not be in their country for more than six months.
We found a helpful customs officer who was married to an American, who told us this was really not a problem as all we had to do was go out to sea every six months and go past the twelve mile limit, turn around and then come back in again. If we stayed even one day past the six months they would charge us full customs duties on Magellan as if we had imported her into Holland. The duty would be one hundred percent of the value of the boat and its contents.
It was starting to get cold as it was now autumn and soon to be winter. It was uncomfortable to sit in the cockpit and steer for long periods. I wore my survival suit over sweaters, two pairs of pants, and thermal underwear to keep warm enough to steer. We wanted to be close to Amsterdam and its civilization. On the canals you must go under many low bridges, some of which we cleared with only inches to spare. We therefore kept our mast lashed to the deck. We were a motor boat!
As long as the mast was off, now was the time to do the canals. We would live aboard in Amsterdam for the winter and then explore the canals during the spring and summer. We found it easier to find places to tie up for the night in the Netherlands, which is what the Dutch prefer you call their country. We found a little town called Monnickendam, which was just north of Amsterdam, and decided to spend the winter there.
Monnickendam was a center for yachts and yacht building. We located a lovely marina and signed up for a slip. Quickly we purchased a satellite dish to get television other than Dutch language programs. This was during the Gulf War. We were happy in our snug cabin, cooking and painting, but we were worried about the Jews in Israel and the American soldiers in Saudi Arabia. The townsfolk were unfriendly to anyone not Dutch. We shopped there and otherwise had as little to do with the locals as possible. We had a decoder for the satellite and were able to pick up the raw unedited feeds from CNN from the Gulf, which were shocking.
It was quick and easy to take the bus into Amsterdam and go to the movies in English, which we hadn't done for many years. However, we hadn't watched American TV for six years, and didn't know the shows or the stars. We missed many of the jokes, as we didn't know who, or what, they were talking about.
It was now winter, and Magellan was completely frozen into the ice of the Zuider Zee for many weeks. The canals of Holland don't freeze every year, but they did that year. I purchased ice skates and went skating by just going over the side of the boat. Several locals told me that this was improper as you only skate on weekends, and preferably on Sundays only. There was no law about this, but just custom. The Dutch live very protected lives with a pervasive cocoon of services and welfare systems. They do everything at the same time and in the same way. Everyone goes skating on the same day. When it is fishing season everyone goes fishing on the same day.
There was a local indoor pool and sauna we went to. It was a beautiful facility and very reasonable. We got to know a few locals at this spa and talked to them about the culture. They all spoke English, because English is the language of business in the world and the government requires that everyone learn it. Everything was very clean and well run. The buses were immaculate and always on time to the minute. But everyone was dour and we didn't see many smiles. The Netherlands has legal prostitution, and rampant nudity, drugs, liquor, and gambling. As in Polynesia, we felt that the visible amenities, i.e., the cleanliness, orderliness and other good things of Holland, concealed something which was less than right.
In the spring we were ready to travel the canals. We spent a few weeks going east into Germany and did not like it there either. The people were again dour and unfriendly. They weren't nasty, just non-communicative and cold. The countryside was nice, but no nicer than the Delta of California had been.
We didn't like the need to steer all of the time. Most nights you had to tie up somewhere in the boondocks and not near a town. Therefore it was tough to supply Magellan and tough to go out to a restaurant. We had purchased bicycles in Amsterdam, as it is the best mode of transport in these places. We biked into the towns and toured some of the countryside on our bikes. But we have never been bike people, and didn't enjoy most of these trips. We were in good physical condition from the peddling, but it wasn't much fun.
We had had enough of Holland. We didn't have enough time to put the mast back up and refit Magellan before the onset of the winter. Going out into the North Sea is dangerous due to the heavy traffic and the poor conditions anytime other than the summer. Our plans were to go north into Norway and Sweden in the late spring or early summer.
Barbara, however, wanted to go back to Los Angeles right away. The problem is that our six months of being in Holland was coming to an end and we couldn't afford to miss that deadline and pay the duty. I said that I would motor the twelve miles out to sea, turn around and come back in, while Barbara went to LA to find us a place to live. She returned to LA and quickly found us a condo in Beverly Hills. I hired a crewmember to help me get Magellan out to sea and past the twelve-mile limit, and then back in to Holland to meet the requirements of the law. Having done this, I wanted to leave Magellan in the Marina and join Barbara. The Marina, however, wouldn't allow the boat to remain unguarded while we were gone. I was forced to hire a crewman to live onboard until we returned. This was something which I didn't like at all, but I had no choice.
We were settling back into life in Los Angeles, but we didn't like being there; we missed out boat. We had a lovely condo with a panoramic view of Beverly Hills and the mountains. The location was great, but we weren't enjoying ourselves. Barbara decorated the apartment and it was smashing, but that wore off very quickly and we wanted to move on.
Our plan was that we would return to Magellan, leave Holland, and go to Denmark as soon as the weather permitted. Copenhagen is a nice city, and we would do that area of the world next.